Influencer: Ian Donnis

The Public’s Radio political reporter talks baseball, Buddy, and the best BBQ in Providence


Where did you grow up and what brought you to Rhode Island?

​​I grew up in New Jersey, went to college in Boston, and had my initial Rhode Island experience while commuting to be a temporary reporter in Providence. Years later, I was looking for a change from a newspaper job in Massachusetts and took over as the lead writer/news editor for the now-defunct alt-weekly Providence Phoenix. It was April 1999 – two weeks before the FBI raided City Hall and Power Street, signaling the unveiling of the Plunder Dome investigation that eventually landed Buddy Cianci in prison. I knew I was in a great place to be a reporter. I joined what we now call The Public’s Radio in 2009.


What is your favorite Rhody activity?

My fave is the variety we have in our small state, being able to do so many different things in close proximity: beaches, hiking, etc. I also like our identity as Rhode Islanders, as denizens of a very idiosyncratic state. Plus, our motto is “Hope,” which is pretty awesome.


What led you to pursue a career in journalism/broadcasting?

I was interested in writing and journalism from a young age, thanks in large part to my mom. She was a gifted (unpublished) writer and loved words and language. I was young during the Watergate episode and that gave me a strong impression of the importance of the watchdog role of reporters.


You cover Providence often – what do you like best about being part of this community?

One of the great things about Providence is how you usually can’t go out for coffee, a drink, or a sandwich without running into a few people you know, from very different walks of life. Politicians expect interaction with reporters since we’re such a small state. I can’t imagine what it would be like being a reporter in a place like California, with so many different media markets.


What are your favorite local small businesses to dine, shop, and have fun?

I’m a big fan of our great local restaurants, including Avenue N, Matunuck Oyster Bar, Durk’s BBQ, and Al Forno. Some of my fave spots for a drink include the Wild Colonial and Nick-a-Nee’s.


When you’re not writing/reporting what are your interests?

My wife and I have two dogs, and they are a constant source of joy and entertainment. I’m a big Red Sox fan and I play in a recreational hardball league. I also enjoy reading, cooking, and working out. 


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