10 to Watch

Dan McGowan

WPRI’s Digital Reporter


• 28 years old
• Originally from West Haven, CT
• Alumni of City Year Rhode Island
• Coaches Little League baseball in Mount Pleasant

• Won 2014 Associated Press Award for “Best Hard News Feature” with Walt Buteau for their report on secret slush funds controlled by city leaders and 2011 Rhode Island Press Association Award for “Best Business Story” with a story on Federal Hill for this magazine

Why He's Making News
There were really two winners in this year’s election for mayor of Providence: the other was Dan McGowan. As the Digital Reporter for WPRI (Channel 12) he turned a gig writing web stories for a television station into a one-man city desk for the Providence politics beat. He singlehandedly covered the mayoral contest more thoroughly than any other news source in the state. As national media began to take note of the race, McGowan’s reporting was cited by the New York Times, Washington Post and Esquire, and Politico Magazine tapped him for a profile of Cianci.

How He Worked the Beat
He joined WPRI last January in part because they were looking for someone who knew Providence. “We feel that as Providence goes, so goes the state,” explains McGowan. “You can’t dominate the news in this state without owning Providence.” As the mayoral race started to take shape in the summer, he was charged with covering it because, he jokes, the feeling in the newsroom was, “Oh, you know what Jorge Elorza looks like. You know how to get Michael Solomon on the phone.” With city coverage cut to the bone at the ProJo, McGowan basically ate the paper of record’s lunch all summer long.

Two particularly inspired moves by McGowan established him as the source for news on Providence politics. The first was on June 20, when he created the “2014 Providence Mayor’s Race” group on Facebook, which essentially functioned as a message board for any and all news items related to city politics from every source. It quickly became the de facto water cooler around which anyone with an interest in the election congregated. The other was on August 21, after the Elorza and Smiley camps sent out a cryptic media advisory about a joint press conference the following day, setting off a flurry of speculation. Working overtime, McGowan broke the story, tweeting well past many people’s bedtime that Smiley was going to drop out of the race. From that point on, he owned the Providence beat.

What's Next
There have been rumors that the ProJo is interested in McGowan, but for the moment he’s staying put at WPRI. Ever the diligent student of his beat, McGowan says, “My goal for 2015 is to learn Spanish.” He also hopes to launch a series of public forums to bring city leaders and residents together to talk politics. And he’s still moderating a fairly robust discussion of city politics through the Facebook group. Despite the dim prospects for local news over on Fountain Street, he remains bullish about the city beat. “Local coverage does still matter. There is an audience there – you just need to go out and find them,” he maintains, adding, “I found them.”

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