Why Is RI Failing? Don’t Ask the Media; Blame Them.

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Maybe the headline of this post is a little aggressive, but we’re in frustrating times, and insiders need to start feeling some heat.

Our local media is content to publish articles with headlines like “Report: Rhode Island ranks 34th best state in the US,” which is a drop of eight places from last year on the U.S. News and World Report ranking, but they don’t seem interested in doing their own reporting to find out why this might be the case.  Just look at the extent of the reporting in the WPRI article by Melanie DaSilva:

The decision has a lot to do with the state’s rough roads and high housing costs, according to an analysis on the rankings by R.I. House Speaker Joseph Shekarchi.

“All kinds of opportunity for us to look at how we can improve our infrastructure. The cost of living in Rhode Island, specifically, housing is very high,” he said. “For many Rhode Islanders, affordable housing is way out of reach for them, too much so.”

So, according to the only “expert” the article cites, the solution is to pass his signature package of affordable housing bills!

Rhode Island has ranked poorly on a broad range of indexes for years and years.  Why aren’t our journalists really digging in to find out the reason and to hold people accountable?  Well, for one thing, they rely on those very people, like House Speaker Shekarchi, to give them access so they can write stories more easily.  For another thing, they tend to agree with the policies and attitudes that produce the poor results.

Look, one shouldn’t just pick an index and treat it as capital-T Truth, but if we’re going to talk about them, we have to present an accurate picture.  The fact is that infrastructure, on which U.S. News ranks RI 49th, is not the reason for the state’s drop, because we were 49th on the last iteration, in 2019, too.  (By the way, what happened to that RhodeWorks thing?)

The Ocean State dropped in most of the other seven categories.  Here are all eight:

  1. Healthcare: from 5th to 9th.
  2. Education: from 41st to 39th.
  3. Economy: from 20th to 28th.
  4. Infrastructure: from 49th to 49th.
  5. Opportunity: from 31st to to 32nd.
  6. Fiscal stability: from 31st to 44th.
  7. Crime and corrections: from 13th to 7th.
  8. Natural environment: from 1st to 7th.

Two quick notes before I continue my rant: First, the education score has a large component that is arguably about money spent, not results, and Rhode Island is mostly hurt by higher education (49th) rather than K-12 (25th).  One could argue that we’re spending a lot of money to make K-12 look middle-of-the-pack, but our results are actually seen in the poor college performance, for which Rhode Island students are not adequately prepared.  Second, affordable housing is part of the “opportunity” category.

But the most important point, here, is that Rhode Island’s government is failing on every level.  You’d think a news media that’s serving the public would be behaving as if that were the case.  Instead, it’s a lickspittle press that largely processes the press releases of well-paid government PR people and blacklists alternative voices.