On the ProJo's "Reinvent Rhode Island" series

The Providence Journal  has wrapped up its "Reinvent Rhode Island" series - tackling Rhode Island's confoundingly poor economy - and put it all in one spot on its web site.

So, what to make of the paper's big, one-year project?

In a time of diminished resources and, too often, limited vision, at the state's paper of record, the ProJo deserves credit for the ambitious effort. The series, at many points, was a testament to the paper's enduring strengths.

Here was the only media outlet with the staffing and prestige to put the state's leaders - in politics, education, business, and labor - on camera, in print, and on the record, discussing Rhode Island's defining struggle. Here was the paper's still-strong cohort of storytellers putting the problem in human terms. Here were sometimes tough takes on the state's economic development failures.

But the series highlighted some of the paper's shortcomings, too. The ProJo, like some of the failing leaders it targeted in the series, did not go outside the state as much as it might have - didn't do enough to bring in bigfoot, national thinkers or explore the economic development strategies of other states.

And while the series' new web hub is perfectly navigable, it reflects the limitations of a backward site: less-than-appealing design, video links that take the reader to YouTube, print stories in scattered formats.

This is a series, in other words, that could've been better - from a paper that could be better.

But the ProJo did something important. It did something that no other outlet in the state could do. And that's why it still matters.




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