Sunday, June 12, 2011

Use of "street" or nicknames in reporting

In reference to our coverage of the ongoing murder trial of Jarrin “Phat Boy” Rankin, a reader questions why the Freeman uses nicknames — or “street” names — in its reporting. Among the principals in the case are Amanda “Blazer Bitch” Miller, Trevor “Little T” Mattis, Gary “G-Money” Griffin and Dametria “Meatie” Kelley.

winterweather wrote on Jun 11, 2011 8:49 AM:
" Why does the Freeman print the nicknames of these 'scum of the earth'? To me, it credibility, and I think the person's given name, First, MI, Last should just be used. "

The most important reason we use nicknames in addition to given and legal surnames in our reporting is to be as specific as possible about the identities of people on whom we are reporting.
Some individuals may be known in different spheres of their lives by different names. The fullest set of names serves the widest possible audience.
Court documents, by the way, often follow the same rule. Not uncommonly, federal indictments and the press releases of federal attorneys regarding the conviction or sentencing of gang members will include the street names of persons charged or convicted of crimes.
Another reason to use a street or nickname is the general journalistic rule that a person has a right to be known by whatever name he or she chooses. An exception to that rule would be the editorial judgment to continue using a name to make identity clear to a reader, such as "The Artist Formerly Known as Prince".

Saturday, June 11, 2011

"Disappearing" reader comments on our website

A reader today questioned in a Web comment whether the Freeman had removed reader comments from a story overnight.

"Last night when I read this story there were already 6 comments. This morning there are none, where did the comments go? What are you doing Freeman, editing the public response as well as your own stories?"

The answer is no, in most cases, we don't edit the public, with the exception of approving all comments before they are posted, as we always have.
So, what happened to the comments?
In most cases involving "disappearing" comments, a given story has been published more than once on our website. In the case that vexed our reader today, the story "New Paltz woman locked cat in hamper, SPCA says," was published twice to our site -- once Friday afternoon as the story developed, and again at 3 a.m. today, which is when the new edition of the Freeman is published daily on the Web. When a story is republished, the comments do not carry over to the "new" story. The earlier comments can still be viewed, however, with the story that was published on Friday and new comments can be added to either version.
Infrequently, we are prompted by readers to revisit a comment that has been posted and review it for appropriateness; sometimes this does result in removal of a comment. But, in the vast majority of cases, instances of what seem to be "disappearing" comments are a result of the publication of more than one version of the story, as detailed above.