PROVIDENCE — An honor guard consisting of dozens of journalists will pay tribute to legendary Rhode Island investigative reporter Jim Taricani at his funeral on Thursday, providing a powerful show of solidarity for the First Amendment freedoms that he championed.
At least 40 journalists are expected to join the honor guard, and invitations have extended to reporters across the country, including CNN chief international anchor Christiane Amanpour, who interned with Taricani at WJAR-TV in the early 1980s.
“The honor guard is meant to thank and honor him for all the work he has done on behalf of all of us, and for his friendship,” said Dyana Koelsch, who worked with Taricani at WJAR for 16 years. “It’s also meant to show solidarity among members of the media — that we know those First Amendment rights are important and need to be supported. It’s a show of strength.”
While it’s unclear if she will attend the funeral, Amanpour sent Taricani’s wife an e-mail on Monday expressing her condolences. “Jim was really my first mentor and I feel so fortunate to have met him and worked for him and learned from him, right at the very start of my career,” Amanpour wrote. “He’s a real trailblazer for us, a legend, and it makes me so proud to have known him.”
Those expected to participate in the honor guard include Boston 25 News reporter Bob Ward and former Providence Journal investigative reporter Tracy Breton, and the pallbearers will include WPRI-TV investigative reporter Tim White, whose late father, Pulitzer-winning reporter Jack White, served as a mentor to Taricani, Koelsch said. While 40 seats are reserved for the honor guard, she said, “Any journalist that wants to come and be a part of this show of respect and solidarity is welcome.”
Taricani, who died of kidney failure on Friday at his home in North Kingstown at age 69, covered Rhode Island for four decades, including 32 years at WJAR. He earned a reputation for uncovering corruption and shining a light on the New England Mafia and figures such as Raymond L.S. Patriarca.
In 2004, Taricani was convicted of civil contempt for refusing to reveal the source of a secret FBI videotape that showed a Providence city official taking a $1,000 cash bribe. A federal judge sentenced him to six months on home confinement, and he was released after four months for good behavior. He became a national advocate for a federal shield law that would protect journalists from having to reveal sources.
Taricani’s funeral service will be held at 10 a.m. Thursday, at Christ the King Church, 180 Old North Road, Kingston, R.I., with burial immediately following at Quidnessett Memorial Cemetery in North Kingstown. Calling hours will be from 4 to 8 p.m. Wednesday, at the Barrett & Cotter Funeral Home, 1328 Warwick Ave., Warwick.
The Taricani family announced the creation of a lecture series on First Amendment rights at the University of Rhode Island in his memory.
“Journalistic integrity and ethics were deeply important to Jim,” said his wife, Laurie White-Taricani. “Throughout his career, he was a champion of the news media’s First Amendment rights. He knew that protecting those rights is critically important — not only for journalists, but for all of us.”
US District Court Chief Judge William E. Smith, Taricani’s neighbor and friend for more than 30 years, said the honor guard and lecture series would be “tremendously meaningful” to Taricani, “and he would be humbled by it.”
Smith plans to speak at Taricani’s funeral service, talking not only about his career but some of his other passions. He said Taricani was a talented cook who made a tasty crostini and a skilled musician who loved the Rolling Stones.
“Jim was a guy who took his profession extremely seriously,” Smith said. “But beyond that, he was someone who really, really enjoyed life.”