AP Buries Dem Label Plus Omits Claims of Corruption, Money Trouble

How thoughtful of the AP to give NewsBusters a Christmas contestant for “Name That Party.” Consider this post our thank you note for the timely gift!

In this December 25 article, the AP buried the party affiliation of Democratic Philadelphia mayor John F. Street in the very last sentence of a ten-paragraph article about the mayor taking an extra $111,000 in pay raises that he rejected while in office. He now wants to take the money through a program he he once vetoed, claiming the city couldn't afford it. He then played the race card and asked as a politician elected mainly by "poor black people" "what will I do" without the extra money.

Not only did the AP bury Street's party, it didn't label him a Dem outright, instead indirectly referred to a “fellow Democrat” as the only party identification. (Thnx to NBer DaBird)

Also missing are references to Street's financial troubles, some relating to his office, and several corruption scandals, earning him a 2005 Time magazine award as one of the worst top-three big city mayors. Note the many spots for a label:

Mayor John F. Street is getting more than $111,000 as he leaves office, money that a city official said comes from pay raises that he was entitled to but did not take.

Street had vetoed a pay-raise bill in the midst of an election in 2003, and the City Council overrode it. The mayor, however, chose not to take an increase, which at the time would have raised his salary from $146,000 to $165,000.

Now he has decided to collect it retroactively.

If Street were in the GOP, the first line of this article would read, “Republican mayor John F. Street...,” or at the very least, the second paragraph would kick off with “The Republican had vetoed a pay raise...” However, since the story is about a Democratic politician appearing greedy and uncaring, the AP simply sunk the reference down to the very last sentence, coyly dodging a direct label.

The article was also without the usual “contextual” and background information that the media use to flesh an article and signal the story's significance. 

Now, the AP might just have not been familiar with Street's history, but other papers, such as All Headline News and the Philadelphia Inquirer were not so watered-down.

Although Philly's "Inky" didn't identify Street's party either, the paper found it important to note that Street declared personal bankruptcy twice and was thrown off the Philadelphia Gas Commission because he owed over $5000 in gas bills. In 1982, the city's Finance Department threatened to dock his pay by nearly one-third to collect back city taxes.

The Inky then included this devastating quote from Street, who was explaining why he changed his mind and decided to take money that he said the city couldn't afford (emphasis mine):

"As a member of Council who got elected primarily by representing poor black people, I don't have the benefit of the kind of financial help available to some other elected officials. When I leave local government, what will I do?"

Wow. I can't imagine the AP would let go of juicy storylines about corruption, greed and money troubles, especially with a “gimme, gimme, gimme” quote like that, if Street were a Republican. It's also more likely that Street's party association would have been more important. You know, that "culture of corruption" that supposedly only involves the GOP. 

Oh, once Street leaves government, his annual pension will be $115,700 for life. In 2008, he will get $678,327 from the city in 2008, including his deferred pay raise and annual pension. Without the pay raise, he would have been forced to scrimp and save on a miserly $563,000 for the year.

The AP didn't think that break-down in city income was important. Good thing the Inky did.

Lynn contributes to NewsBusters and can be reached at tvisgoodforyou2 AT yahoo DOT com

Budget Labeling Double Standards Regional Media Pennsylvania Philadelphia Inquirer Wire Services/Media Companies Associated Press Journalistic Issues John F. Street