AP Buried Political Party of Corrupt Jail-Bound Democrat
July 11, the AP wrote that former NC state House Speaker Jim Black was sentenced to five years for “taking cash to promote chiropractors,” but the writer forgot to mention until the sixth paragraph that Black is a Democrat.
We've seen the phenomena of the media forgetting to identify political parties when a Democrat is portrayed negatively and at times, when a Republican is portrayed positively, as during Rep. William Jefferson's (D-LA) corruption and bribery scandal. Conversely, an AP article about Sen. David Vitter's (R-LA) link to the “D.C. Madam” included his party in the first four words.
Since everyone doesn't read every article, it's important to pack the major facts into the initial paragraphs. The first several paragraphs offered many perfect spots to disclose Black's party, but they were not used. Also, the seriousness and details of the charges were minimized by vague descriptions. Between the vagueness of the charges and the lack of identification, the reader is left with questions (emphasis mine throughout):
Former state House Speaker Jim Black, once one of the most powerful men in North Carolina government, was sentenced Wednesday to more than five years in prison for illegally taking cash from chiropractors while promoting their agenda.
U.S. District Judge Terrence Boyle also fined him $50,000.
Black, 72, had pleaded guilty in February to a single count of accepting things of value in connection with the business of state government. The federal charge carries a maximum prison sentence of 10 years and a $250,000 fine, but sentencing guidelines suggested a shorter term.
“I'd like to take this opportunity to accept full responsibility for the mistakes that I've made,” the Democrat said Wednesday.
Why not insert “(D-LA)” in that first sentence after Black's name where it could have been done easily?
Also, the importance and details of the charges were minimized by vague descriptions such as, “illegally taking cash from chiropractors while promoting their agenda.” Why not describe the crime as other media did by stating that Black pleaded guilty to federal corruption charges “amid mounting criminal investigations?” Black didn't happen to take a check that he accidentally forgot to report and then coincidentally was “promoting their agenda.” North Carolina's Charlotte Observer phrased it as “accepting $29,000 from chiropractors while pushing legislation that favored them.” That may not seem like much of a difference, but the AP's phrase lessened the impact of Black's actions without explaining the issue.
As an example of more vagueness, the AP didn't mention that the amount given by the chiropractors wasn't chump change. It was $29,000.
Aside from two corruption cases that were disclosed to explain a legal statement, Black's other questionable political dealings were buried at the very bottom and not even all of those in the court system were identified. A $500,000 transaction that was included in papers relating to Black's sentencing that was considered "relevant conduct" by the prosecution was ignored, as was the scope of the allegations of corruption and influence-peddling.
.The AP took incidents that include further allegations of corruption and turned it into a seemingly positive statement that I found unintentionally funny:
A prolific fundraiser, Black managed a fragile coalition to get work done in the House and help Democratic Gov. Mike Easley get signature elements of his education policy through the chamber, including the creation of the state lottery in 2005.
What a shocker! A politician convicted of taking money for political influence is good at fund raising and ramming bills through legislature. That's kind of how it works.Too bad the AP didn't connect the questions swirling around Black, which include the lottery as well as other issues, such as what the implication of Black's connections as an optometrist had on mandating eye exams for all school children. Kudos for identifying Easley's party, though.
Of course, the AP could have just gotten into a flow, identifying Black's party where convenient, without being aware of the controversies, but the reporter Gary D. Robertson covers the NC beat and should know the history.
Contact Lynn at tvisgoodforyou2 AT yahoo DOT com