BLOG WORTHY: Crowley (left) and Jerzyk (center)
Earlier this year, Matt Jerzyk revealed (see "Media rebels in the Internet age," News, May 1) that he would be selling his almost four-year-old blog, Rhode Island's Future (rifuture.org), which has played an important role in establishing the local blogosphere and advancing the cause of alternative media in the Ocean State.
On Tuesday evening, during a Drinking Liberally event at the Wild Colonial in Providence, blog contributor Patrick Crowley, a liberal firebrand who works as the deputy director of the National Education Association Rhode Island, was formally unveiled as the new owner of Rhode Island's Future. His acquisition of the blog is due to be completed January 1. Jerzyk, who graduated this year from Roger Williams University Law School (disclosure: he's a friend of mine) is now focusing on his legal career.
Jerzyk's choice of a successor (for undisclosed terms) makes good sense, on a number of levels. The two men share a common grounding in community- and union-organizing. They are unapologetic liberals who each have a good nose for real news (Crowley has demonstrated this, for example, with posts, which received subsequent ProJo attention, about how Governor Carcieri and his wife owed back taxes on a vacation property, and about how a putative new reform group, TransformRI, was linked to Carcieri supporters). And they both embrace new technology as a highly desirable form for political communication.
Here are some questions I put to Crowley:
WHY ARE YOU BUYING RI'S FUTURE?
The mainstream media doesn't provide adequate coverage of the things that matter to me and many other activists. The only way to beat the system is to be the media.
IS ANY OTHER PERSON OR ORGANIZATION INVOLVED IN YOUR ACQUISITION OF THE BLOG?
No, just me.
HOW WILL THE BLOG BE SIMILAR/DIFFERENT? WHAT ARE YOUR PLANS FOR IT?
The physical structure will remain virtually unchanged. It has proven to be a winning formula. What will change is there will be more writers, and I will be encouraging more people to write diaries. There will be more members of the General Assembly writing for the blog than there are elected Republicans! I also plan to encourage readers to pick their favorite stories of the week by integrating Facebook surveys. Also, I have been experimenting with a live video feature.
Also, I am going to encourage not just progressive voices, but new voices, even if they may not fit the typical left leaning focus of the blog. Taking note of President[-elect] Obama's approach to politic, we must admit that progressives don't have a monopoly on the best ideas.
HOW DO YOU SEE THE ROLE OF RI'S FUTURE? We give people the chance to "be the media." For too long what was considered newsworthy had to pass through filters and layer of review. Often, things that are really important get lost in that process. So if we give people the chance to be the media we can be a thorn in the side of the powerful, but also a valuable asset to the community.
HOW DO YOU SEE YOUR ROLE AS THE NEW OWNER OF THE BLOG IN RELATION TO YOUR WORK WITH THE NATIONAL EDUCATION ASSOCIATION RHODE ISLAND (NEARI)? IS THERE A NEED TO DETERMINE A DIFFERENCE BETWEEN "BLOG TIME" AND "NEA TIME"?
While the issues I face at both jobs overlap, there is a thick wall between my two jobs. The idea that either of these jobs requires a time clock, and [that] you can punch in to one job after punching out from another, just misses the way 21st century jobs operate. I am sure some people will try to criticize the arrangement, but those are mostly the same people who either don't like my writing or my day job anyway. The far right-wing in this state LOVE to criticize everything, but I am now a small business owner as well as a "left-wing nut job." So does that mean I get to be part of the club?
The following responses are from Jerzyk, who credits the blog's success to how RI's Future provided news and commentary faster than traditional "old" media; how it made it easy for readers to comment, so that they could be part of the debate (there are now more than 1100 registered users); and how it maintained a focus on local news amid old-media cutbacks.
WHAT WILL BE YOUR CONTINUED ROLE WITH THE BLOG AFTER THE SALE?
I plan on continue to blog on RIFuture.org, but much less. They say that politics is an addiction and that seems likely to be true. But, I have been given a great opportunity to work with some of the best trial lawyers around at DeLuca & Weizenbaum, and I am excited about building my legal career with them. And, I am excited about spending more time with my beautiful wife, Suzanne, and my two children, Diego and Colin.