(UPDATE: See circulation chart below.)
In early March (covered at NewsBusters; at BizzyBlog), Toledo Blade Columbus Bureau reporter Jim Provance named the party of Ohio's Republican State Auditor Mary Taylor, who sharply criticized Democratic Governor Ted Strickland's serious lateness with the state's financial statements -- so late that they couldn't possibly be audited until after the Ohio General Assembly passes the budget for the two-year fiscal period that will begin on July 1.
Provance never named Strickland's or any other Democrat's party.
After that episode, NewsBuster commenter HoosierEm reported that Provance responded as follows to an e-mail complaint about his coverage of the Taylor-Strickland story:
I should have mentioned that the governor is a Democrat. I mentioned Ms. Taylor's party affiliation because she is of the opposite party of the person she is criticizing. Just a fact that should be put out there. I should have taken the next step of noting the governor's party."
Lesson learned, right? Hardly.
In a story in Thursday's Blade, Provance did it again. This time he identified a Republican prosecutor while failing to specifically identify the party of a former high-level assistant of disgraced former Democratic Ohio Attorney General Marc Dann.
Former aide to Marc Dann indicted on 10 counts
Anthony Gutierrez, the man at the center of a sexual harassment scandal that helped drive former Attorney General Marc Dann from office, faces theft and fraud charges for allegedly using his ties with his long-time friend to benefit himself financially.
Franklin Country Prosecutor Ron O'Brien Thursday announced a 10-count indictment -- six felonies and four first-degree misdemeanors -- against Mr. Gutierrez one year to the day after Mr. Dann left office just 16 months into his term.
Mr. O'Brien, a Republican, said the timing was not scheduled to coincide with the anniversary.
..... Mr. Gutierrez was the target of a pair of sexual harassment allegations that were settled earlier this year by the attorney general's office. Allegations are still pending in Trumbull and Mahoning counties that Mr. Gutierrez padded bills paid by Mr. Dann's campaign committee for security windows at Mr. Dann's Youngstown area home and then redirected the extra money to three businesses to which Mr. Gutierrez's private firm, MTV Construction, owed money.
Mr. Gutierrez is expected to turn himself in on Monday.
If convicted on all charges, Mr. Gutierrez faces a maximum of eight years in jail and $20,000 in fines, said Mr. O'Brien.
..... Mr. Dann has so far faced no criminal charges. In March, he was fined $1,000 and given a public reprimand by the Ohio Elections Commission for illegally mining campaign funds to finance a $40,000-plus security system for his home as well as personal cell phone use for him and his family.
The panel chose not to refer the case to Mr. O'Brien for possible criminal prosecution, but it is expected next month to examine more serious allegations of misspent funds against Mr. Dann, his wife Alyssa Lenhoff, former press secretary Leo Jennings, and campaign committee Deputy Treasurer Mary Beth Snyder.
Mr. Dann resigned last year under pressure from Republicans and fellow Democrats alike in the wake of the harassment scandal. Mr. Dann admitted at the time that he feared his own extramarital affair with his office scheduler may have set a poor example.
The allusion to Mr. Dann's "fellow Democrats" in the story's final paragraph above is the only reference to the Democratic Party in the entire story. Provance never specifically identified the indicted Mr. Gutierrez or any of Dann's assistants as Democrats.
If Mr. Provance believes this is a "next step" improvement, he has a very steep learning curve to climb.
Meanwhile, the Toledo Free Press reports that the Blade continues to bleed readers:
Blade circulation numbers down 42,700 since 2004
ABC (the Audit Bureau of Circulations) reported The Blade has dropped from 178,274 Sunday circulation in December 2004 to 135,567 in March 2009.
Its combined Monday through Friday numbers have dropped from 131,117 in December 2005 to 110, 728 in March 2009.
..... The Blade’s Director of Circulation, Dick Fuller, did not return repeated phone calls or e-mails by press time.
It could not happen to a more deserving and slow-learning bunch.
Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.
UPDATE: I enhanced a chart, also available as a PDF at the Toledo Free Press, of the Blade's circulation bleed during the past four-plus years to strengthen its points (the Free Press's "Pct." changes are really decimal reductions):