Taricani Lecture Series Continues In New Virtual Format

The Taricani Lecture Series on First Amendment Rights, named for the late Rhode Island journalist Jim Taricani, is set to continue in a virtual format on Nov. 10.

Hosted by the Harrington School of Communication and Media, the series focuses on multiple topics that Taricani considered important in life, such as the First Amendment and freedom of the press.

The series’ existence  is due to the dedication and input of Laurie White-Taricani, Jim’s widow.

“We were looking to find a way to keep his memory alive that was meaningful,” White-Taricani said. “It was a natural fit to want to do something with the University and issues that Jim considered so important.”

The Harrington School and Jen Riley, dean of the University’s College of Arts and Sciences, also played important roles in developing the series. 

“Laurie wanted to get something off the ground prior to the first anniversary of Jim’s passing, which is where the virtual lecture series idea came out of,” Riley said.

With White-Taricani’s input, the series came together for its first events this year. However, COVID-19 forced Riley and White-Taricani to adapt and change the format of the lectures.

“Turning to virtual this summer turned out to be a real opportunity for us,” Riley said.

White-Taricani also got journalist Sree Sreenivasan to help out with the series’ technical aspect. Sreenivasan is a journalism professor at State University of New York Stony Brook. He also helped work to set up and moderate the first two lecture series over the past summer, featuring New York Times op-ed columnist Nicholas Kristof and Pulitzer Prize winner Sheryl WuDunn, and CNN Chief International Anchor Christiane Amanpour, respectively.

“We were able to take the message around the globe,” White-Taricani said. “And it’s actually gotten more attention and engagement.”

The next Taricani lecture will be held on Nov. 10 and feature multiple local journalists and political reporters who worked with Taricani. The main discussion will be around election and post-election coverage, as the 2020 general election will have happened exactly a week prior.

Riley said that the decision to hold this lecture in November came during its original planning in August.

“We were going to do it in August and then we thought that we hadn’t done any of these when the students were actually back in school,” said Riley. “Now we’re going to do it Nov. 10 and that’ll be local journalists.”

Riley also said that she intends to make the series endowed.

“We’re continuing to raise funds for this series,” Riley said. “The more funds I can bring in, I can make it endowed, and an endowed series means that it’ll kick off a certain amount of money every year that allows us to do this as long as the Harrington School is running.”

The series is also running alongside the Christiane Amanpour lecture series, which will be continuing on Oct. 29 with Atlantic reporter Ed Yong. Yong is a science reporter, and will be talking about covering COVID-19, among other things.

Even when the COVID-19 pandemic and social distancing become a thing of the past, however, virtual Taricani lectures will continue alongside in-person ones.

“We realized that we had an opportunity to provide programming for alumni that can’t necessarily make it back to URI,” Riley said. “We’re going to go back to face-to-face events, but we’ll also stream some events every year to have that larger reach.”

This was one of the first two articles I wrote for the Good Five Cent Cigar during the fall semester of the 2020-2021 academic year. It was published on September 17, 2020.

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