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Mark Ryan: The Power Behind the Throne

Relatively few Rhode Islanders would be able to identify the name of the Providence Journal's general manager, but Mark Ryan is a very influential guy on Fountain Street and he's positioned to have a big impact on the newspaper's future. I profile him in this week's Phoenix: 

Some of Ryan’s admirers tab the one-time Irish Catholic kid from Warwick as a born-and-bred Rhode Islander — a description they would never bestow on the Journal’s former Yankee owners, even though they were among the state’s founding Five Families. The irony is that Ryan, who shares more in common with typical Rhode Islanders, is presiding over the ProJo’s transformation from one of American journalism’s medium-sized gems to a thinner, far less vibrant version of its former self.
 
Ranking second only to publisher Howard G. Sutton in the Belo-backed newspaper’s local corporate hierarchy, Ryan is generally considered more actively involved in the daily’s day-to-day management. And though mostly unknown by the public — even many staffers have said little more than “hello” to him — the GM is positioned to have a big influence on the ProJo’s future. This is due in no small part to how executive editor Joel Rawson, a throwback to headier days at the newspaper, is in his early 60s and approaching retirement.
 
As if to underscore the continued power shift from the newsroom to the business side, Sutton wrote in a March 20 internal memo that Tom Heslin, the Journal’s new-media czar, “will have a solid reporting line to Mark Ryan, and a dotted line to Joel Rawson.” Perhaps as a sop, Rawson is gaining oversight of the paper’s investigative team, a role held by Heslin since the early ’90s.

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