The Providence Journal, the daily newspaper in Rhode Island, provides quite a bit of online content that supplements the top stories of the day. Over the past few months I have found myself increasingly drawn to the “active surveys” section of the site. Projo staff post new survey questions (mostly open ended) on a regular basis and readers are encouraged to submit their two cents. Recent questions include “what’s a good spot for a central library in Providence?”, “have you ever had problems with wildlife on your property?”, and less tasteful surveys such as “tell us your Rhode Island mob story.” 

At first I thought that these surveys were a great way to start an open dialogue with people in Rhode Island about all sorts of important topics such as neighborhood improvements, arts and culture, diversity, and affordable housing. Unfortunately, many of the surveys become dumping grounds for people’s ignorant views—apparently (according to the comments I read) illegal immigrants, homosexuals, state workers, and politicians are the cause of 99% of the problems in Rhode Island. Librarians, teachers, and strippers are apparently a bunch of troublemakers too. 

When two mothers from Woonsocket joined in on a fight between their daughters, the Projo survey results included many comments about illegal immigrants creating violence in our cities. Unfortunately, a majority of the posters either failed to read the article fully or failed to realize that people from Puerto Rico are American citizens and not illegal immigrants. 

Some readers shared intelligent, well-thought out insight about the potential relocation of the Providence Public Library while others chose to offer more ludicrous ideas such as firing all librarians to save money, closing the library because everything is available on the Internet, and moving the library to Cranston because Providence is a “hell hole.” Anyone who thinks Providence is a “hell hole” obviously hasn’t stepped foot in the city since the 1980s. 

Rhode Island is increasingly becoming a service industry state because low paying retail and food service jobs are the best match for the skills of many unemployed Rhode Island residents. This state, along with other New England states, offer top notch higher education to thousands of college students each year. The problem is that students take their education and move straight out of New England. I imagine that people who are contemplating a move to Rhode Island check out the Providence Journal to get a feel for the state’s culture. I only hope that if they stumble across these active surveys, they take most of the comments with a grain of salt.