Nathan Dunlap or number 89148: Was Hickenlooper right not to use killer's name?
When Governor John Hickenlooper announced yesterday that he's offering a reprieve to Nathan Dunlap, who was convicted in 1996 of killing four people at a Chuck E. Cheese restaurant, he never uttered Dunlap's name. Instead, he chose to call him "offender number 89148," reasoning that he'd already gotten enough notoriety for his terrible acts.
We previously tackled the subject of whether or not to name murderers and show their photos in a story about James Holmes, the alleged Aurora theater shooter.
Unlike many alleged mass murderers, including the teens responsible for the massacre at Columbine High School, Holmes survived to be arrested and tried in court. Media outlets, including Westword, have been covering every step of the case -- and as a result, stories about the alleged killer appear in the news more often than some readers and victims would like. There have been repeated calls for the media to forgo using his name and photo so as not to make him famous.
Several local media outlets have tried to strike a balance. They may use Holmes's name and photo in stories about the latest developments in his court case but not in stories about victims. At Westword, our policy is that if we're writing about someone accused of a crime, we use his or her name because it's part of the historic record.
Was Hickenlooper right to omit using Dunlap's name -- a move that was not followed by local media outlets? When it comes to news stories, is Dunlap's case different than Holmes's case? Read our previous story, "Should the media forgo using killers' names and photos?," and leave your thoughts in the comment section below.
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