About the only "good" thing you can say about the Associated Press's coverage of Luzerne County, Pennsylvania judge Mark Ciavarella is that they have been consistent. That is, the wire service, led by reporter Michael Rubinkam, up to and including today, has consistently and disgracefully failed to tag the infamous "Kids for Cash" jurist and his judicial colleague in crime Michael Conahan as a Democrat.
The consistent failure is all the more unforgivable because, as shown here, one the earliest AP reports on the topic clearly stated that "Both are Democrats." Shortly thereafter, the sentence disappeared. Since then, to my knowledge (shown here and here), in the 2-1/2 years since the story first broke, no AP report on what the it has described as "one of the most shocking cases of courtroom graft on record" has tagged either judge as a Democrat.
Two brief AP dispatches from December 2 and December 3 about Michael Toole, a Pennsylvania judge who has agreed to plead guilty to corruption-related charges, fail to mention that Toole has at least been a contributor to the Democratic Party, and appears very likely to have been a party member.
This see-no-party treatment parallels local media coverage of Toole's situation (four of many examples are here, here, here, and here). As far as I can tell, no one has directly identified Toole's party affiliation.
It wasn't easy to ascertain that Toole is a more than likely a mule. The best online evidence of his party affiliation consists of a March blog post at Sights on Pennsylvania identifying contributions by Toole to the Luzerne County Democratic Party in 2003. Whether Toole is actually a registered Democrat, or was until shortly before his legal troubles began, is supposed to be AP's and other journalists' job to determine -- and report.
The wire service refers to Toole as a "third judge" to be hit with corruption charges. As previously noted several times at NewsBusters and BizzyBlog, the other two, Mark A. Ciavarella Jr. and Michael T. Conahan, are definitely Democrats. The AP actually said so in an early dispatch about the pair's indictment in February, but removed mention of their party membership a short time later; graphic proof that this occurred is at the earliest related post at (here and here) at each blog. As far as I can tell, the pair's party affiliation has not since been mentioned in an AP report.
Sadly, posts like this one about the continued refusal of the Associated Press to label disgraced and now-indicted Northeast Pennsylvania judges Mark Ciavarella and Michael Conahan are starting to sound like a broken record.
Fair enough, but someone has to track the record AP is apparently seeking, the one for "most failures to mention a Democratic Party affiliation after initially doing so."
You see, in an early report back in February when the story first broke, AP told readers (as noted at NewsBusters; at BizzyBlog), that "Both are Democrats." Shortly thereafter, revised and extended versions of that early report omitted the two judges' party affiliations.
No other AP story since issued that I am aware of has told readers that Ciavarella and Conahan are Democrats, even though the wire service's reports on case developments have gone over their national wire, as seen here today at AP's raw feed at about 2PM:
This "Name That Party" situation has many of the usual elements. There are several stories about two Democratic judges involved in criminal behavior in Pennsylvania, and, with one exception, they "somehow" don't get around to identifying their party.
But this saga is different for two reasons:
The crimes to which the judges have pleaded guilty involve "thousands" of juveniles.
In one lonely exception, the Associated Press's coverage prominently identified the judges' party. But in what was apparently a subsequent longer revision, their party identification disappeared.
What follows is a side-by-side picture of the first four paragraphs of a February 11 AP story carried at topix.com (also saved at my host for future reference), and of the five paragraphs of the story as it now appears at MSNBC (also saved at host; red and green boxes are mine; portions of the Topix link were moved from their original locations on the page for demonstration purposes; MSNBC graphic is of the printer-friendly version):