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What's next for RI's Future

As we now know, Pat Crowley is taking on the reins at RI's Future from Matt Jerzyk. I talked with these two for a Q+A in this week's Phoenix:

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:

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 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. . . .

HOW DO YOU LOOK BACK AT WHAT THE BLOG ACCOMPLISHED UNDER YOUR LEADERSHIP?
When RIFuture.org first came online . . . . I never imagined it would grow to such heights. I remember thinking that I wanted to build a Daily Kos blog for Rhode Island: an online news source that could build a progressive media to compete with the vast right-wing talk radio operation. And I think we have accomplished that.

I think the blog has become a tremendous success because of the community we have created. With tens of thousands of readers and over a dozen writers, we are not only debating important political issues, we have also provided an online clearinghouse for people to get involved in the political system, from the 2006 US Senate race to the Rhode Island for Obama campaign in 2008 . . . . We are also pushing people to walk the walk because, at the end of the day, a healthy democracy requires people to engage it: by holding elected officials accountable or going to city or town council meetings or running for office directly.

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