Pardon me while I retch this morning at the news (reg. req.) that TV reporter Jim Taricani has been found in contempt of court for failing to reveal the source of a videotape he broadcast and now faces a possible six months in prison.
To recap: Jim has refused to tell a special prosecutor where he got a tape that showed corruption by the chief fund-raiser for former Providence Mayor Vincent A. "Buddy" Cianci. Hizzoner and the others are now doing federal time. The special prosecutor in the case launched an FBI investigation into who leaked the tape. When he tried to get Taricani to reveal the source, Taricani refused.
Jim is a helluva reporter, a former competitor who was a joy to compete against when I ran the AP's Providence office, and a friend. I know all the people involved from my days in Rhode Island (aka "A journalist's theme park"), and I'm sure Judge Ernest Torres did agonize over the decision. There are no winners in this case -- except the public, which, thanks to Jim, got a clear look at the often-corrupt underbelly of Rhode Island politics. (State motto: We know what we are; we're merely negotiating the price.)
For now, all I can do is offer moral outrage and support -- and I urge you to do the same through professional organizations, etc. Jim, who has had a heart implant, needs all the legal firepower he can get. He is taking the bullet for the rest of us. I suspect that ultimately he will be unsuccessful given the current state of affairs in this country. But perhaps some good can come out of this if it mobilizes all of us to push for a federal shield law and continue to push the courts to modify Branzburg v. Hayes.
Do you find it as ironic as I do that during a time when the press is being excoriated for not doing its job that when someone like Jim does his job well ...