Letter: Jim Taricani — His pursuit of truth made us all proud

Posted 7/10/19

To the editor:

Last week I went to a funeral. My friend and one-time colleague Jim Taricani died 23 years after receiving a heart transplant. With infinite gratitude, Jim squeezed every ounce of …

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Letter: Jim Taricani — His pursuit of truth made us all proud

Posted

To the editor:

Last week I went to a funeral. My friend and one-time colleague Jim Taricani died 23 years after receiving a heart transplant. With infinite gratitude, Jim squeezed every ounce of life out of his donor heart.

But this is about Jim the Journalist, with a capital ‘J.’

Jim was an investigative reporter at WJAR-TV in Providence, Rhode Island, for more than three decades. By definition, reporters should be investigative, but Jim and his I-Team led the pack on a local and national level.

His funeral left no doubt how esteemed he was among his colleagues. Forty-plus journalists from the Boston Globe, New York Times, all three rival Providence networks, and CNN, stood shoulder to shoulder wearing the symbolic quill pens on their lapels as his casket was brought to the altar. His humbleness in pursuit of the truth made us all proud.

Both speakers, Reverend Jared Constanza and U.S. District Judge William Smith spoke eloquently about what journalism meant to Jim and what Jim meant to journalism. His work, they noted, was always informed by his belief that ‘facts matter.’

Back in the late ’70’s and early ’80’s when I worked at the station with Jim, the mob was alive and killing in New England. The capo de tutti capi, Raymond Patriarca, was a feared man.

But Jim was fearless and ‘right’ wasn’t complicated. Without regard for his personal safety, Jim exposed the mob and Patriarca.

Among his numerous awards and accolades, the one most talked about was having the distinction of being the only journalist invited to Patriarca’s funeral. And given a rose.

It was a testament to how fair and respected he was, by friend and foe.

But there was a price to pay for his principles. He once spent three months under house arrest for refusing to reveal a source. For the rest of his life he was a dogged defender of the First Amendment and a federal shield law for journalists.

This stuff was important 40 years ago and it should be important today.

Every year reporters are killed, maimed, imprisoned and tortured for trying to uncover and report the truth. And often they to it to protect the rights of people who so casually malign them.

So the next time you’re wrapping dead fish in yesterday’s newspaper or mocking a reporter’s story you don’t agree with, or listening to proclamations of “fake news,” take a minute and remember a reporter named Jim Taricani.

Beverly Schuch

Westport Point

— Beverly Schuch was a correspondent for CNN for 16 years.

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