Jim Taricani, veteran investigative reporter at WJAR Providence, died June 21 at the age of 69. He retired from WJAR in 2014, after a long career of shining a light on government corruption, and on the mafia exploits in Rhode Island, which were plentiful in his career.
Taricani also mentored a young Christiane Amanpour when the CNN chief international reporter was just out of college, down I-95 a bit at the University of Rhode Island. She was an intern in the WJAR investigative unit.
“It was such an amazing experience,” Amanpour said.
Amanpour started at CNN as an assistant on the international assignment desk in 1983. She’s covered countless wars and humanitarian crises across her 36-year career. Based in London, the B&C Hall of Famer hosts global affairs show Amanpour on both CNN and PBS.
While interns typically grab coffee for reporters or take care of busy work, Amanpour said Taricani pushed her pretty much right away at WJAR. She recalls her boss wiring her up and sending her to a mafia hangout. “I was pretty scared and pretty clueless,” said Amanpour.
The young reporter did not get usable sound, but did get experience in what she calls “the scary side of journalism.”
Amanpour learned a ton in those early days of her career. “It was the first time anybody put their trust in me, their confidence in me, in the world of journalism,” she said.
Taricani spent four months under house arrest after refusing to say who gave him an undercover FBI videotape related to Operation Plunder Dome, which was an investigation into corruption that began in the late 90s.
“He wouldn’t tell them anything,” said Amanpour. “That was really, really, really important.”
Amanpour describes Taricani’s house arrest as “a crazy way to treat a journalist for doing his job.”
She credits Taricani for helping her land a job at CNN in 1983. Amanpour said she still leans on lessons learned from Taricani to this day. “Stay true to your sources, don’t bend to government pressure to reveal confidential information,” she said.
Journalism “is a poorer place with his loss,” Amanpour added.
“Jim stood up for his principles and was one of the best local investigative reporters in the country,” she said. “I was fantastically luck to end up in his unit.”