NEWPORT, RI— Ocean State Stories, a new journalism initiative from the Pell Center at Salve Regina University, launched Wednesday, Feb. 8, 2023, on oceanstatestories.org.
The first story explores the impact of food insecurity on communities throughout the state and profiles several people and organizations that are working to address the issue.
Also published on the inaugural day was the first in a regular series of interview-style conversations with prominent Rhode Islanders, biographies of Ocean State Stories’ 16-member Advisory Board, and a letter of introduction from Ocean State Stories Director G. Wayne Miller and Pell Center Executive Director Jim Ludes.
An ad-free non-profit media outlet, oceantatestories.org is devoted to issues that matter to all of Rhode Island. Content is being published in English and Spanish—and by the platform’s print newspaper partners, including the Warwick Beacon, the Cranston Herald, and the Johnston SunRise, which will bring Ocean State Stories reporting to an even broader audience. “I’m thrilled that this platform will allow for a deeper dive into issues I have explored as a journalist for four decades in Rhode Island,” said Miller, who along with local freelancers will report and write the stories. “I’m really looking forward to showcasing the work of local freelance journalists as we expand this initiative in the weeks and months to come.”
Miller emphasized the project’s importance against the national backdrop of increasingly endangered local reporting, a cornerstone of American democracy. Widespread layoffs, closures, and sales of once-independent local newspapers to out-of-town chains and hedge funds have led to a well-documented increase in news deserts and “ghost papers” and a reduction in coverage of issues of vital importance to residents of many regions.
Ocean State Stories will adhere to the highest journalism standards and rely on data from authoritative sources. Unlike some outlets that cater to citizen-journalists, Ocean State Stories will pay freelancers for the stories it publishes. In doing so, the platform will attract established reporters and aspiring journalists. Reporters will be members of the communities they cover, writing about the important issues in those areas through a thoroughly local lens.
Miller will oversee recruiting of freelance reporters, mentoring a new generation of journalists and offering hands-on guidance and expertise.
“I am honored to be creating with Jim, the great Pell Center staff, and Salve Regina’s Communication and Public Affairs team, a media outlet devoted to education, healthcare, the environment, and policy issues–and also racial and socioeconomic disparities and injustices,” Miller said. “Along with mental health and developmental and intellectual disabilities, which Ocean State Stories will also cover, these are issues I have explored for four decades as a Rhode Island journalist.”
Ludes and Miller are the hosts and executive producers of “Story in the Public Square,” the multiple Telly Award-winning public television and SiriusXM radio show that was recently renewed for its 10th-national season.
Miller is a multimedia journalist whose work has been honored more than 50 times. He was a member of the Providence Journal team that was a finalist for the 2004 Pulitzer Prize in Public Service for its coverage of the devastating 2003 Station nightclub fire. He is also the author of 20 books and a documentary filmmaker.
“I have been a visiting fellow at the Pell Center since 2012 and have been privileged to help build public-service initiatives that reflect the civic values espoused by Senator Claiborne Pell during his 36 years in office,” said Miller, whose books include “An Uncommon Man: The Life and Times of Senator Claiborne Pell,” a biography of the late Newport resident. “This opportunity expands our mission of helping to better the common good at a time when so much is at stake.”
Ocean State Stories is made possible by the support of generous foundations and individuals including the Rhode Island Foundation, Alan G. Hassenfeld, Charlotte Metcalf, and Geraldine and Alfred J. Verrecchia.