Blogs » Your Advocate: an editor's blog » Should the media use catchy names for criminals?


A serial rapist terrorizes elderly women in small towns around us. In the course of reporting on this continuing story, San Antonio media dubbed this criminal "The Twilight Rapist."

At our recent ethics board meeting, we discussed a reader's complaint that such a name glorified the criminal. Media have a longstanding tradition of giving names to criminals, but that doesn't make it right.

The benefit of such names is that they create a shorthand way for the public to recall ongoing cases. Our board decided we should be sensitive about using such catchy names, but couldn't create a hard-and-fast policy against them, particularly if they became part of common usage.

In the case of the "Twilight Rapist," statewide media are now using the name. Most recently, Gov. Perry named a special task force to investigate the case.

We're sending this question of naming criminals to our new reader advisory board for discussion and welcome your thoughts as well. Let's hope authorities capture soon this sick criminal, regardless of what we call him.