You Be The Editor: Does Neiman Get His Marcus?
The story in yesterday's Post detailed the arrest of a man in the shooting death last fall of a man before the eyes of his wife. The article introduced the accused man like this:
Police charged Neiman M. Edmonds, 19, with second-degree murder yesterday in connection with the fatal shooting of [Raymond] Brown, a well-known music engineer who was killed last year after his car was stolen by men in a tow truck.
Every other news organization I could find that reported on the same arrest described the arrested man a bit differently:
"Washington police arrested Neiman Marcus Edmonds, 19, of Upper Marlboro, on a warrant from Prince George's County police," wrote The Gazette, the Maryland community news operation owned by the Post's parent company.
WTOP Radio put it this way: "Prince George's County Police believe 19-year-old Neiman Marcus Edmonds, of Upper Marlboro, is one of several people involved in Brown's death."
"Neiman Marcus Jay Edmond, 19, was arrested at his home in Northeast Washington on Tuesday, police said," was the formulation at WRC-TV (Channel 4).
And so on, throughout the reports by broadcast and print outlets.
In the news business, if the subject of the story has an especially cool, bizarre, funny or strange name, you can bet a good dinner that the story will get an extra boost--more time, better play, a more clever headline. Reporters and editors love a good name, and Neiman Marcus Edmonds, whose parents apparently enjoy a fine shopping experience, certainly qualifies.
So why did the Post go with a demure middle initial? Interestingly, in the early version of the story posted here on the big web site, Edmonds was granted the honor of his full moniker, including middle name--a tradition that the news industry has traditionally reserved for presidents, assassins, and select really bad guys. By later in the day, however, editors at the newspaper decided that as entertaining as the accused man's name might be, the proper and right thing to do was to follow the paper's standard style and publish the guy's first and last names, plus that classic, if archaic, journalese standby, the middle initial.
You will have figured out by now that I respectfully disagree, that both for entertainment value and to honor the obvious wishes of his parents, who gave him the full name of the department store with the intention that it be understood exactly as that homage, the Post should have gone with the name in all its glory.
The counterargument, of course, is that this is not a light feature, but a serious report about a development in an especially horrifying and ghastly murder case--hardly the place for any consideration of entertainment value.
The Associated Press Stylebook instructs editors that middle initials "are an integral part of a person's name." The wire service concludes: "In general, use them."
But there's a growing resistance to that old rule; broadcasters almost never include people's initials when identifying them, and newspapers are increasingly seeking a less formal tone.
So what's your call? You Be The Editor: Full name or stick with the standard middle initial policy? Or do you have another solution?
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