Friday, November 19, 2004

Jim Taricani

Let me begin with the fact that I am a fan of veteran reporter Jim Taricani. Taricani has been a valiant investigative journalist in Rhode Island for decades, and he is highly regarded by peers, the public and the pols. Lately he's been the topic of national news.

As the Wall Street Journal Commentary page noted today, Jim, who faces jail time in his sentencing scheduled for December 9th, committed no crime in receiving and then airing footage of a bribe in Providence City Hall captured on tape during the FBI surveillance of alleged scoundrals involved with former Providence Mayor Vincent (Buddy) Cianci in what was called the Thunder Dome Scandal.

But, as John Carroll of Greater Boston on WGBH noted this evening, Taricani committed a crime when he was found in contempt of court for being uncooperative with authorities in the court's quest to identify the person who leaked the tape to him.

Ah, but a reporter must be free to protect his sources, you say? But his source committed a crime which, by providing Taricani the tape, and by Taricani’s subsequent airing of the tape, jeopardized the right of due process to several defendants in that case.

Jim has not been in good health, having had by-pass surgery a few years ago. We do not wish the man be sentenced to jail. But we do believe if the judge decides to place him in home confinement, that would be appropriate. Unfortunate, but appropriate.

Protecting journalistic sources is one thing, but protecting criminals is another. A little complicated perhaps as the issue juxtaposes one set of rights (freedom of speech and of the press) against another set of equally important rights (the right to due process of law), both of which appear in the same Bill of Rights.

United States Senator Christopher Dodd (D-CT) is attempting to introduce legislation which would exempt journalists from revealing their sources under any circumstance. We’re in that minority that thinks the pendulum has swung too far in favor of the Press, given the excesses of the MSM. Time to place emphasis on the rights of the common man, including those facing a court of law with a jury pool that may have been tainted by the gross exaggerations of an overzealous press.

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