Executives at NBC-owned WJAR said they are "evaluating our options" after a Boston Federal Appeals Court last week upheld a civil contempt order and fine against investigative reporter Jim Taricani.
In February 2001, a source whom Taricani declined to identify provided an undercover videotape of an aide to former Providence Mayor Vincent Cianci accepting a bribe from an informant. Both Cianci and the aide were later convicted on corruption charges and sent to prison.
Federal Judge Ernest Torres appointed a special prosecutor to figure out who provided the tape to Taricani. When the reporter refused to divulge his source, Torres found him in contempt and ordered Taricani to pay a fine of $1,000 a day until he fessed up. The aggregate fine already exceeds $90,000. If Taricani continues to refuse to give up the source, he could go to jail.
Neither Taricani nor station management is talking, but WJAR issued a statement in support of the reporter. "If courts can compel reporters to break their promise of confidentiality," the statement said, "many sources will withhold newsworthy information." Readers of the Providence Journal were divided on their support.
Asked in an online poll whether Taricani should reveal his source, respondents were split 50-50.