Imagine if you will that former Alaska governor Sarah Palin was accused of taking gift cards donated to her office for redistribution to needy constituents and using them instead for a personal spending spree.
The media firestorm would swirl uncontrollably, of course, and certainly you couldn't fault the media for reporting on the ensuing criminal trial.
Well, this sort of this has happened, only to the Democratic mayor of Baltimore Sheila Dixon who was convicted yesterday on a misdemeanor charge of embezzling, yet the coverage from the broadcast networks has been non-existent until the trial's conclusion.
A search of "Sheila Dixon" among ABC, CBS, and NBC news transcripts catalogued on Nexis from January 1, 2007 to December 2, 2009 yielded only three hits. None of the stories were about Dixon's trial, and one, an April 30, 2008 "Nightline" story on predatory mortgage lending, cast Dixon in a favorable light as a champion of citizens who have been exploited by mortgage lenders.
Granted, Dixon is only a city mayor, and that may explain some of the lack of coverage, but when ABC did its part to portray her as a champion of the working poor, it's telling that there was no follow up from that network until today.
The December 2 editions of ABC's "Good Morning America" and CBS's "The Early Show" both briefly noted Dixon's conviction during news roundups from the anchor desk, while, of course, failing to note her party affiliation. NBC's "Today" however, failed to even mention the story (transcripts below courtesy of NB's Scott Whitlock and Kyle Drennen, respectively):
"Good Morning America"
7:17 a.m. EST
CHRIS CUOMO, anchor: One buyer of electronic goods is the mayor of Baltimore. Problem is, she was buying them with gift cards intended for the city’s poor children. Sheila Dixon was convicted of stealing the cards to buy hundreds of dollars worth of items at Best Buy and Target.
"The Early Show"
8:31 a.m. EST
RUSS MITCHELL, anchor: In Baltimore, Mayor Sheila Dixon says she will fight a conviction that could force her from office. Dixon was found guilty of taking $630 in gift cards intended for the city’s poor and using them to buy electronics. She was acquitted of three other charges.
Photo credit: Angelina Perna for the Baltimore Sun.
Original photo caption: Mayor Sheila Dixon and her lead attorney, Arnold M. Weiner, face the media after her conviction on a single charge of taking gift cards intended for the city's poor.