WJAR Reporter Convicted of Contempt

Jim Taricani, investigative reporter for NBC Universal-owned WJAR-TV Providence, R.I., was convicted by a Rhode Island U.S. District Court Thursday of criminal contempt for refusing to reveal the identity of a source.

He will be sentenced Dec. 9, and could go to jail.

Taricani had already been socked with a $1000-per-day fine for refusing to reveal the source of a leaked videotape that showed a former city government official taking a bribe.

NBC/U issued a strong defense of the reporter, saying in a statement:

"NBC Universal stands by Jim Taricani and vigorously supports his decision not to reveal the identity of a confidential source. Jim did exactly what an investigative reporter should do: He informed the public about corrupt political officials who were tried, convicted and incarcerated for their crimes. It is regrettable that he has been found guilty of criminal contempt and faces probable jail time simply for doing his job...

"Without being able to ensure the anonymity of their sources, journalists would be severely restricted in their essential work of exposing corruption and wrongdoing."

"Jim has been replaced in the position because the law does not recognize that reporters are obliged to protect the confidentiality of their sources," said the Radio-Television News Directors Association in expressing their support for Taricani. "Thirty-one states and the District of Columbia have shield laws. It is time for a federal shield law to protect reporters like Jim and those facing contempt of court rulings in other ongoing investigations."

RTNDA said it would push for such a law in the next Congress, though Mort Zuckerman, U.S. News & World Report Editor-in-Chief, said he thought the chances of such a law in the current political climate were “zero.”

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.