CNN’s John King to open inaugural Taricani Lecture Series

To discuss 2020 election, state of journalism, First Amendment

KINGSTON, R.I. – April 7, 2021 – As millions of Americans attempted to understand the results of a protracted and historically divisive presidential election, they turned nightly to CNN to get the latest news from the network’s lead political anchor, Wolf Blitzer, and chief national correspondent, John King ’85, Hon. ’10.

More than 6 million prime time viewers tuned in each night during election week, and King’s grounded reporting amid the turmoil, and nightly analysis of the evolving results, won him admiration around the nation and the world. He was praised on nightly talk shows and across social media.

King will share insights from an unprecedented election cycle during the inaugural Taricani Lecture on First Amendment Rights and the role of journalism in safeguarding them. His talk, “From Taricani to Trump: Lessons Learned on a Journey from Rhode Island to Washington and Beyond,” will be Wednesday, April 21, from 5 to 6:15 p.m. The virtual lecture is free and open to the public. Please register for the lecture at URI’s Harrington School of Communication and Media’s Taricani Lecture webpage.

King’s lecture honors the memory of former WJAR-TV, award-winning investigative reporter Jim Taricani Hon. ’18, who became a Rhode Island icon for his coverage of corruption and organized crime, his heroic stance in protecting a confidential source, and his advocacy of a federal shield law to protect journalists. A three-part summer lecture series served as a prelude to this inaugural spring 2021 lecture, endowed by Laurie White-Taricani ‘81 and the Taricani family.

As a URI junior and Associated Press intern, King met Taricani in 1984, the same year New England organized crime boss Raymond L.S. Patriarca died and Providence Mayor Vincent “Buddy” Cianci was forced to resign from office.

“So much has changed in the nearly four decades since,” said King. “We live, learn and work now in the Age of Disruption: breathtaking technological innovation and equally breathtaking assaults on truth, science, and common sense. But a lesson learned then is just as relevant now, perhaps more so: The First Amendment and the freedoms it protects, and the fairness and responsibilities it demands, remain a best friend and best compass in challenging times.”

Laurie White-Taricani said she sees a lot in common in her late husband and King in their approach as journalists.

“John King describes himself as a ‘reluctant warrior.’ Jim possessed a similar hesitancy,” she said. “Making the transition from a ‘print guy’ to a TV reporter seemed out of personal alignment for each of them. During the early days of their careers, they treasured being local newspapermen – digging into the grist and fabric of communities, including the daily police blotter and the monthly zoning board hearing. Within short order, the distinctiveness of their talents put these reluctant warriors in a place where broadcast news and its global impact became inevitable platforms for their reporting. They maintained a friendship for many decades after initially working side-by-side in the 1980s – John at the Associated Press Providence Bureau and Jim at NBC 10.

“The basic tenets of responsible journalism – accuracy, fair-mindedness and context, will be reinforced for today’s generation of college students as part of the Taricani Lecture Series on First Amendment Rights,” she added. “We are honored that John King, whose roots are deep in local newspapering, will share his insights on why a free press has never been more important – locally and globally.”

King is CNN’s chief national correspondent and anchor of the hour-long weekday show, “Inside Politics,” and has covered the past nine presidential elections. He has reported from all 50 states and more than 70 countries, and is crucial to CNN’s daily reporting and breaking news coverage, including major events such as the network’s 2020 Election Night in America coverage. A long-time political reporter, King served as moderator of three presidential debates in 2012. The 2020 presidential election was the fourth cycle in which his work included use of CNN’s state-of-the-art election results board, the “Magic Wall,” which was introduced in 2008 and was an integral part of the network’s election coverage in 2012, which earned CNN an Emmy Award.

King, a native of Boston, joined CNN in May 1997. He served as CNN’s senior White House correspondent from 1999 to 2005, becoming chief national correspondent in April 2005. As White House correspondent, he reported on such stories as the Iraq war and the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Prior to joining CNN, King was an Associated Press correspondent for 12 years, joining the wire service after graduating from URI in 1985 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. At AP, he covered such international events as the Persian Gulf War and as lead political correspondent for the 1992 and ’96 presidential elections.

Along with URI, he has been awarded honorary doctorate degrees by American University and Hobart and William Smith Colleges.

Gifts to the Taricani Lecture position the University of Rhode Island as a destination for robust discussion regarding journalism and the First Amendment by providing the resources needed to bring distinguished local, national and international journalists to lend their expertise and perspective to this critically important topic. Please, help support the Taricani Lecture.