Mark Patinkin

Inducted: 2022
Born: 1953

Mark Patinkin came within a whisker of earning a Pulitzer Prize in international reporting. Not a bad achievement when you consider he started his career with the Providence Journal by barging into the General Manager’s office over 40 years ago almost begging for a job. He succeeded in his quest.

He got to work the Providence police logs and fire department blotters. While using his thesaurus to find different words for blaze, criminal, and political trickery, he caught the eye of the newspaper’s executive editor who saw something special in the cub reporter. At the tender age of 26, management named him to a plum position: columnist.

Six thousand stories and essays later, a reader must wonder what nooks, crannies, and personalities are left to mine journalistically in the nation’s smallest state.

Although personal columns have marked his stellar career, for stretches of time his peripatetic nature took him to the four corners of the globe to report on conflicts and human drama. Wherever he traveled, the same skills that highlighted his assignments in Rhode Island also broke the barriers of language and culture.

He investigated famines in Africa and tackled those seemingly intractable hot spots of religious warfare: Northern Ireland, India, and Lebanon. He also negotiated the maze of blocks in Palestinian refugee camps, a Jewish reporter trying to bring some understanding to the plight of the inhabitants there as well as in Israel. He slogged on to document the fall of the Berlin Wall and its impact in Eastern Europe.

These far-flung outposts of discord and battle honored him with their highest awards. He barely evaded being kidnapped in Beirut, was arrested in that hotspot of Romania, and had his jeep stoned in the Gaza Strip. A journalistic trifecta.

Mark, after his didactic adventures, decided to spend more time in Little Rhody. Most of his columns centered on everything and anything within 40 miles of Providence. His stories chronicled people, groups, and humor.

Most importantly, he shared the travails and joys of his own rambunctious family. That emotional roller coaster, from births and deaths, created the empathy which locals have for their writer. The people’s champion. We could associate with almost every triumph and regret that he discussed among his brood. Few readers could avoid being untouched by his poignant portrayals of characters and charismatic figures. And if we fell into the lap of his writings, he seemed to become spellbound by his adoptive state as well. Make no mistake! Mark Patinkin could have moved elsewhere to improve things a long time ago. Sadly, at some point he will sheath his fountain pen on Fountain Street.

In his spare time Mark has written two tongue-in-cheek books about the state. We only know about that because our Don Bousquet, our Hall of Fame cartoonist, illustrated them.

Besides his brush with a Pulitzer Prize, his new national employer, Gannett, named him columnist of the year. He has won three New England Emmys and has been awarded several honorary doctoral degrees. Not surprisingly he works with groups that address the issue of hunger.

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