Reminders of the dangers those face in the field of journalism were evident on Thursday, June 27, as one of the finest journalists Rhode Island has ever known was laid to rest.
Outside Christ the King church in Kingston, Rhode Island, one man yelled obscenities in the road outside the church. The general message was the same- the man was glad that Jim Taricani, famous Rhode Island investigative reporter, was dead.
However, that only slightly marred what turned out to be an incredible, moving ceremony in honor of one of the most well-known defenders of the First Amendment.
Jim Taricani was a journalist whose name is known by just about all throughout the state of Rhode Island. He spent 34 years working for WJAR, Providence’s local NBC affiliate, and started the I-Team, a team of investigative reporters covering corruption and other stories of the like throughout the state. Perhaps the moment he’s most famous for was refusing to give up the name of an anonymous source exposing a Providence city councilman receiving a bribe, which ended up giving him four months of house arrest. He would then become a major advocate for a federal law to protect journalists from having to reveal sources.
Jim Taricani was more than that, though. Many at his funeral called him a true mentor to them throughout their careers. And he was also the recipient of a heart transplant in 1996 which saved his life and allowed him to work for eighteen more years.
Many Rhode Island celebrities turned out for the funeral. Governor Gina Raimondo, who called Taricani a “Rhode Island icon” was there to pay her respects. So were many other current and former Rhode Island politicians.
Jim Taricani’s funeral also boasted one special thing- an honor guard of Rhode Island journalists, all wearing white ribbons with a quill pin on them, paying their last respects. Media members and journalists from WJAR, where Taricani worked for most of his life, WPRI, ABC 6, WPRO, the Providence Journal, the Boston Globe, and even the New York Times all served as part of this guard. It included established veterans of the industry, both coworkers and rivals, and retired professionals such as Ken Bell and Gary Ley. It also included up-and-coming media members such as myself.
One thing that this giant group had in common, whether they worked with Taricani, for rivals of wherever he was working, or neither, was respect for his work and the man he was.
Unusually for a funeral, there proved to be laughter in remembering Taricani’s life. Reverend Jared Costanza made jokes throughout, talking about Taricani’s Twitter feed, some of his more memorable quips, and stating that “[when Jim Taricani knocked on Heaven’s door] every priest, bishop, and cardinal said ‘Run! Hide! Don’t open that door!’”
Everything- the laughter, the tears, the remembrance of his life and his accomplishments, the ceremony, and the true bond and respect everyone felt for Jim Taricani- made for a fitting way to send off a legend in the field of journalism and in the state of Rhode Island.
Yes, one solitary man ridiculed Jim Taricani for his work in his field. But his voice was drowned out by the silence and solidarity of the forty-plus journalists who stood as an honor guard for his body. It was drowned out by the hundreds more inside Christ the King church mourning his loss. It was drowned out by the thousands throughout Rhode Island and throughout the world who had had their lives touched in some way by this man who left Rhode Island better than he found it. It was drowned out by justice.
And that, I’m sure, is the legacy Jim Taricani would want to leave.