There's a perennial danger, at any non-daily print publication, of publishing material that's dated the moment it comes out--or even before. But Rhode Island Monthly went to the opposite extreme with their March issue, which features a cover story titled, "I WON'T RUN AGAIN: Patrick Kennedy talks about his father, his future, and why he's leaving Congress after 16 years." Remember: the news that Kennedy wouldn't seek reelection broke late yesterday. And when Rhode Island Monthly's piece--by former Providence Journal reporter Mark Arsenault--went online yesterday evening, it featured the most substantial explanation yet of Kennedy's decision.
So: how did Rhode Island Monthly pull it off?
"We may be a monthly, but we can compete, too," Francis says. "We had been working on this story for several months; we actually started working on it in November, before Thanksgiving, and before Patrick Kennedy had his spat with Bishop Tobin. The original focus of the story was, What is in store for Patrick Kennedy in the wake of his father's death? His father was obviously a huge influence on him, personally and politically.
"[Reporter] Mark Arsenault had covered Patrick in the past; he'd spent a lot of time with him and had pretty good back knowledge of Patrick and his story. So Mark had written the story; it was edited and laid out, and we were maybe 10 days from our ship date for the March issue. And then, in the end January, Mark got a call on a Sunday afternoon from Patrick Kennedy, who was at his home in Portsmouth, RI. Patrick asked Mark if he could come down and see him, because he had something else he thought Mark should include in the story. Mark got to Patrick’s house late in the afternoon on Sunday, and Patrick Kennedy proceeded to talk, for about two hours, where he was in his life right now, how the death of his father had really been a watershed point, as it is for many people. And he said that, while he loved his job and loved being in politics, he was at a point in his life where he had to take a step back and evaluate where he was going.
"He wanted us to break the story," adds Francis, "and he asked us to hold off putting it up on our web site until he'd had a chance to tell the people on his staff. I think he’d only told a very small number of people about the decision before he told us--he really wanted to keep it quiet. And we thought what he asked for was reasonable."
Rhode Island Monthly's March issue goes in the mail today, which means subscribers will be getting their copies on Tuesday. As far as timely treatment by a monthly publication goes, that's about as good as it gets.