As a longtime reader of this paper, I can’t help but notice a troubling disparity in the reporting of criminal activities and prosecutions. Namely, the inclusion of nicknames in quotes for certain defendants but not others.

For example, in recent reporting on convicted 3NG gang members, your reporter made a point to remind us all that, one of the men involved, Tyrone Knockum, is also known as “T-Bone.” And his accomplice, Washington McCaskill, apparently goes by “Big Wash.” This information is not only useless and puerile, it is also an illustration of a selective “thugarization” in reporting certain crimes and defendants.

Take the monthslong coverage of Max Gruver’s tragic death and subsequent criminal procedures. As a former college fraternity member, I can guarantee you that some, if not all, of the accused had colorful nicknames born of their fraternity activities. Yet, none of these nicknames were ever included when identifying the defendants. Why not investigate and report this vital information? From afar, it seems that the importance of nicknames is highly related to the demographics of the accused.

Ex-LSU students each sentenced to 30 days in jail in hazing of frat pledge Max Gruver

Gang indictment leads to guilty plea in 2011 killing of 1-year-old girl in Central City

In all fairness to that reporter (and others — a profession which I deeply respect), my guess is that his use of these nicknames stems from their inclusion by the government in charging documents. In turn, however, the government’s insistence on including nicknames is similarly suspect. Too often, the government appears to conflate nicknames with aliases, the latter having some relevance in a criminal prosecution, the former having none other than to prejudice the defendant and grease the skids toward conviction.

Given this, I pose this simple challenge for our hometown reporters: Don’t take the bait. At best, you’re disseminating irrelevant information. At worst, you’re selectively dehumanizing defendants and fear-mongering vis-à-vis young black males.

Alternatively, if you can’t resist the urge, please make sure to tell us what all defendants go by to their friends. Matthew “Tough” Naquin? Jeffrey “Creeper” Epstein? Jack “Rabbit” Strain? Who knows?

And, more to the point, who cares? Let their crimes, along with all others (both alleged and proven) speak for themselves. We'll all be better for it.

Tim Kappel


New Orleans