April 7, 2009

Un-Name That Party: AP Scrubs Dem IDs From JJ Jr./Blago Report in Cgo Sun-Times

JJjuniorPicAtSunTimes0409.jpgThe Associated Press’s determination to keep the identity of Democrats in trouble or under investigation hidden is indeed strong and persistent.

Its report (as of 11:03 p.m.; a copy is saved here at my web host for future reference) on the launch of an ethics probe into Democrat Jesse Jackson Jr.’s relationship with ousted former Democratic Governor Rod Blagojevich, particularly relating to Jackson’s bid to be appointed to the Senate seat left vacant by President Barack Obama, does not refer to Jackson or Blago as a Democrat. Any more, that’s relatively unremarkable.

What is a bit more remarkable is that the underlying Chicago Sun-Times story on the impending probe refers to Jackson twice as a “D-Ill,” once in the report’s very first sentence and once in the picture caption copied at the top right (which, of all things, is apparently an AP file photo).

This means that AP had to proactively scrub the Democratic Party references already present in its underlying source.

Here’s how the Sun-Times’s story began:

Ethics board launches probe into Rep Jesse Jackson Jr.

A congressional ethics board has launched a preliminary inquiry into U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill), related to President Obama’s vacant Senate seat and the corruption investigation of ousted Gov. Rod Blagojevich, the Chicago Sun-Times has learned.

The Office of Congressional Ethics, formed just last year, voted in late March to conduct a “preliminary review,” of actions surrounding Jackson’s bid to be appointed to the Senate seat, according to documents released to parties involved in the probe. The committee launched the action Thursday — the same day Blagojevich was indicted on corruption charges.

The panel has asked parties in the Blagojevich case — including his former gubernatorial staff and campaign staff — to turn over any documents, emails, or other correspondence involving Jackson Jr. and his campaign staff, Jackson’s brother, Jonathan, and political fund-raisers Raghuveer Nayak and Rajinder Bedi, lawyers close to the probe told the Sun-Times. The request for information is from June of last year through Dec. 31, 2008.

Here’s how the AP story began:

Report: Jesse Jackson Jr. faces ethics probe

An independent panel that reviews possible ethical lapses by members of the House of Representatives has launched a preliminary review of U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr.’s efforts to be appointed to the U.S. Senate by ousted Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, according to a published report.

The Office of Congressional Ethics voted in late March for the review, the Chicago Sun-Times reported in a story posted Tuesday on its Web site, citing documents released to parties involved in the inquiry.

The committee has asked for documents, e-mails and other correspondence from Blagojevich’s gubernatorial and campaign staff regarding Jackson, Jackson’s brother Jonathan and his campaign staff, the Sun-Times reported, citing lawyers close to the probe. It requested information from June through December 2008.

It would appear that the writer of the wire service’s unbylined story ignored its own Stylebook (from 2000), which reads as follows:

party affiliation Let relevance be the guide in determining whether to include a political figure’s party affiliation in a story. Party affiliation is pointless in some stories, such as an account of a governor accepting a button from a poster child. It will occur naturally in many political stories. For stories between these extremes, include party affiliation if readers need it for understanding or are likely to be curious about what it is.

The idea that relatively disengaged readers outside of Illinois don’t need to know the party ID of Jackson is absurd on its face. The Sun-Times clearly thought that its mostly local readership needed a party-ID reminder, yet AP ridiculously decided that its more national audience somehow did not.

It would seem that the goal of minimizing the results of future searches on “Democratic” and “corruption” or “D-Ill” and “corruption” is more important than the AP following its own Stylebook.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

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1 Comment

  1. They do like to protect the Democrats, but in this case anyone with a brain should be able to figure out what party Jackson Jr. is in.

    Comment by Ben Keeler — April 8, 2009 @ 3:34 pm

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