Bill Bartholomew – Courtesy of Bill Bartholomew

You first came on our radar several years ago with your Bartholomewtown Podcast. It’s still going strong. Tell us what it is and some of the guests and issues you’re profiled.

Bartholomewtown is a hyper-local podcast covering politics, culture and news in Rhode Island.  We just published episode 500! The show began as a way for me to explore broadcast journalism, something that has been a lifelong passion of mine. It features an array of guests – ranging from frequent appearances by Governor McKee and other federal, state and local elected officials, to members of the media, artists, thought leaders and other newsmakers. Sometimes we are focused on a single news issue, other times the flow is very open and conversational. We recently did a weeklong, seven part series focused on the housing crisis, for example. We dig deep into elections, host debates and forums, break news and offer analysis. The podcast is also repackaged as a radio show, airing on WPRO on Saturday’s at 3pm.

You covered the COVID pandemic with great depth and understanding. Would you say that’s when you really began to wear your reporter hat?

First of all, I really appreciate that. There is little doubt that COVID was my first major story, and what I believe defined me as a reporter.  t is hard to even tap back into that moment – well over a year of sometimes daily press conferences with the governor, and especially in the early stages, multiple podcasts per day with medical, political and other leaders. Though I was on staff at RI PBS and had done some reporting work with WPRO and Bartholomewtown, COVID was where I learned the “business”; that is, to say, spending every day digging into issues, framing them as questions for the press conference, and spending significant time with veterans such as yourself, Steve Klamkin and Jim Hummel.

Our understanding is you did not study journalism (for the record, neither did I). how did you learn?

I did take a handful of journalism classes while I was at The University of Rhode Island, but my degree is in political science. I would say a few ways I learned: 1. My decade in New York as a musician helped me to understand “people” on many levels. This ranged from the pure artistic side to the various jobs I held, ranging from major law firm paralegal to produce delivery truck driver. 2. A lifetime of loving journalism, and learning the format of radio, in particular, as an obsessive listener-student. 3. Making mistakes. 4. As mentioned above, being in the presence of great journalists in the field, but also as guests on my show. I deeply treasure the two hours I got to spend with the late Jim Taricani when he was a guest on the pod. A whole master’s program in journalism right there.

You are also today an Assistant Program Director and Executive Producer with WPRO radio. What does that job entail?

I really love news/talk radio, so I try to bring my passion for the format every time I walk through the station’s door. In essence, I gather news, including on and off record conversations, and decide “which stories make the most sense for Dan Yorke to drive a compelling conversation”? I prepare the audio used in the show, book guests… all the behind-the-scenes stuff that makes an afternoon drive radio show’s heart pump.  It’s how I spend each weekday afternoon. I try to bring a different perspective to the station.

And when afternoon host Dan is away, you often fill in as host. Like him, you take strong issues on positions. How do your audiences react?

I actually started my career at WPRO as a fill-in host for Dan, which was a huge event in my life.  It really made me go “OK, this is worth pursuing.” At the time, I was making no money from Bartholomewtown, working odd jobs to fund the program, so filling-in at WPRO helped me decide to keep pushing in the media. As far as audience reaction, sure, I’ve made some real connections, but the medium is defined as follows: sometimes the listener loves what you’re saying, sometimes they hate it, but if they are engaged and entertained, they keep listening. It’s part journalism, part performer. I take it extremely seriously and bring my own style to the air. I live in this weird space where I grew up on – and still listen to – old-school radio hosts, but also am deep into the 2023 content universe. I guess I try to marry those two approaches.

You’re also a correspondent for Rhode Island PBS. What does that entail?

At one point I was producing a lot of long form TV stories for RI PBS Weekly, which was a massive education for me, working with some national-grade heavy hitters like Barbara Dury and Bartley Price. Wow, did I learn a lot!  I was on the original cast with Michelle San Miguel and the legendary late Bill Rappeleye. I loved every second I was around him. I miss him.  Today, with all of the projects that I have going, and a reworking of the show’s content, I am an occasional contributor.

And you are also a musician and producer for Bill Bartholomew music. What kind of music? Where do you play?

What a life to be an indie artist! I spent a decade in New York’s underground arts scene, occasionally popping up to a mass audience, like when I was on MTV, Vice and NPR. Today, I am feeling as excited about my music than ever before! I am about to finalize a new release, and I perform all over the region, especially in Brooklyn, Newport, and Providence, including the monthly “Elmwood Songwriters Club” showcase that I curate and host at my loft space. I’ll be on tour later in 2023, as well.

What in your background prepared you for all this?

Growing up in rural Rhode Island. Attending URI. Living in New York as an artist, sometimes in extreme poverty, but always motivated to move forward. Traveling to many places around the world and having friends and deep connections with varied backgrounds. Returning back to Rhode Island and observing so many important issues slipping through the cracks or not being sufficiently covered.  y love for the mediums, my experience under the spotlight as a performer, my inspiration to make an impact.

And how do you find the time?

I’m an artist. At the end of the day, that’s how I see myself. All in. I do make time for exercise and some relaxation/fun/friends/family, but here I am at 11:01p.m. writing this Q&A. I started my work day at 8:00 a.m. I wouldn’t change it, though. Another big day tomorrow, another podcast, another radio show to create and another song to finish. Magic is always a possibility.  Who knows what will happen?