On Monday, I did a post taking The Journal Gazette to task for not identifying those quoted in a story about illegal immigration:
I wonder if the JG would pull that “first names only” stunt if this were a bank robber or a burglar. As a matter of fact, would law enforcement let them get away with it, or would some reporter be hauled in front of a grand jury?
An alert reader (and, coincidentally, a JG employee) e-mailed to point out something I’d forgotten, a column by The News-Sentinel’s own Kevin Leininger from Aug. 4, 2007, about a man named Juan: “Juan is here illegally. That’s why he doesn’t want his last name used, even though he was willing to be photographed.” Now, it’s a lot more fun to bash The Journal Gazette, because — well, just because. But we deserve our lumps, too. By not naming illegal immigrants — by helping them stay “in the shadows” — newspapers contribute to the notion that immigrants who break the law by coming here are a separate class of lawbreakers whose only sin is that the rest of us are so heartless and xenophobic. Things are either illegal or they are not. Breaking the law either has consequences or it does not. Those who insist on blurring the lines because they have sympathy for the people in question help breed a disrespect for all laws and the very notion of law.