Well-established precedents

When Jennifer Marra gave me control of the MPCCN, the Charley Project’s predecessor, in December 2002, I started out adding and updating cases in pretty much the exact same way she did. And, over the years (almost a decade now…whoa) I have made very few changes to her methods. Because Jenni really knew her stuff. She was a former journalist, knew how to research and write well, and the MPCCN was the best missing persons website that was available at that time. I (and by extension, you) owe a great debt to her. I picked up the reins, but I could never have started what she did. The Charley Project would not exist without Jennifer Marra. If I had actually started my own missing persons website, it would never have gotten as big, or as good.

I have made some changes, of course. I stopped italicizing car brand names, although I still put other brand names in italics. I add many more runaways and family abduction cases than she did — that’s probably my biggest change. The idea to put up case listings organized by state, by date of disappearance and alphabetically by name was also my own innovation.

Anyway, I’m thinking of making another change: start referring to MPs by their first names, at least sometimes, like with children. I am doing updates on the Dwight Stallings case as I write this and it just seems silly to keep referring to an eleven-month-old boy as “Stallings.” I think I might just start doing that. But in a quiet way — I’m not going to spend months going back and changing all the casefiles to look that way. I don’t have the time and I don’t think it’s important enough for that. I’ll just change them a I add/update them. Whaddaya think?

(For some reason Charley isn’t loading for me right now, which is very annoying when I’m trying to update. But I suppose it’ll come back up soon enough. Lizard Hill is a very reliable host.)

14 thoughts on “Well-established precedents

  1. Princess Shantae April 1, 2012 / 6:37 pm

    if you don’t mind me sharing an opinion, I think it would be better to refer to children by their first names. And refer to adults by their last names except when you have to talk about like, Jenny Smith and Jeff Smith; you’d have to say Jenny and Jeff to keep them straight.

    • Meaghan April 1, 2012 / 6:42 pm

      Yeah, I do that already.

      In a semi-related thing, I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but when I write about eighteen- and nineteen-year-old MPs on this blog, I list put them in both the “teens” and “men/women” categories.

  2. D April 1, 2012 / 7:18 pm

    I think that you have done a great job. And I look foward to your balanced but candid assessments. And I am glad that you are now posting more often.

    On thing that would be helpful would be to track the outcomes and potentially organize The missing people by type. I realize that the types may be subjective and potentially overlapping.
    However apparently there are patterns that emerge by type, and these patterns as well as the individual scenerios would be helpful to reference and this data might help identify new patterns, at least in the less malicious cases.

    Some examples are that intoxicated people don’t generally make it that far (usually less than 1/2 mile) and often get stuck in water. People wih Alzheimer

    However, in my work on one of your cases I have come upon some work in this area that I will circulate later. I have also been working with a Marilyn Greene who has a very organized way of looking for missing people and she has found many, often in very obvious places that have been overlooked by the initial searchers.

  3. meyahna April 1, 2012 / 10:58 pm

    I don’t know as I come from a different country but I remember at first I found that strange to call people by their last name only on doe net and mpccn. Then I told myself maybe it was normal in USA. And eventually got used to it. But I know I always say Mr/Mrs or first name before last name myself as in my country it’s kinda pejorative not to.

    • Meaghan April 1, 2012 / 11:19 pm

      Americans don’t normally address people only by their last name when talking to them, but news articles and official reports etc. tend to refer to people by their last names only. Like, they start off saying “Josh Smith” and they say that once so you know his first name, and refer to him as “Smith” thereafter.

  4. Lisa April 1, 2012 / 11:19 pm

    I just want to say I go back with you to the old MPCCN, I think I found it in May 2002, and every night I would read case after case..you and I used to email back and forth then and in the early Charley days. I don’t think I have missed a day checking here ever since. As for the names, I think using their first name is fine.

  5. Diane April 2, 2012 / 2:14 am

    What I was taught (in my college-level HS English classes) was that when you’re writing something and referring to someone by name, you can alternate between first name and last name in order to create some interest in your writing and so it doesn’t seem monotonous. Perhaps you could start doing that across the board. Because while you may be talking about children, you’re also talking about missing people and focii of police investigations, much like the adults on your site are missing people and focii of police investigations, and it doesn’t make sense to me to create a special writing style for children. I think it’d stick out a lot like how if you suddenly decided to switch to Comic Sans for your missing children’s cases would stick out.

  6. Melissa April 2, 2012 / 6:56 am

    I support the proposed change . I also think the addition of the categories (eg by state, year etc) was fantastic.

    • Diane April 3, 2012 / 3:44 pm

      Agreed, though if I could propose one minute change to the “categorization by state” feature, it would be nice if the states were listed in alphabetical order and you could click on an image map of a map of the U.S. and its territories in order to reach each state’s listings, with an alternate of accessing individual page listings (e.g. “States/Territories A – F”) via text link. That way there can be no quarrels about whether one state should be listed as being in a particular region.

      The way things are categorized by year, OTOH, is absolutely perfect and should not change at all. It makes the most sense. Oh, and FYI, this reminds me — you should really put back up Everett Ruess’s case file. I read via Wikipedia that the set of remains the Native American man led investigators to was proven not to be Everett’s, so he’s still considered missing.

      • Meaghan April 3, 2012 / 4:07 pm

        Yeah, I know about Everett. I just haven’t put him back up yet. There’s some books I’ve been meaning to read about him.

  7. Lisa April 2, 2012 / 10:53 am

    I think it’s completely appropriate to call MPs by their first names. I don’t think it’s disrespectful, I think it brings home that they are/were real people, not just ghosts are some computer screen.

    I also think you do a fabulous job.

  8. Kelly Evans April 2, 2012 / 11:42 am

    I think usage of first names would make it a lot more reader friendly. I often have to scroll back to the top to see exactly who you’re referring to especially when you write of more than one family member.

  9. Sophie April 2, 2012 / 6:34 pm

    I prefer reading about MP’s by their first name. It just seems more personal. I always find myself replacing the last name with their first name while reading to myself. I think it is a good idea.

  10. amy April 5, 2012 / 8:24 am

    A mix of first and last is fine, but I do like that you are using more first names as you add new posts. I think the reason that journalists don’t use “Mr.” “Mrs.” etc. are many fold. From what I remember from class- using only last names was meant to distance the writer from the situation so that they didn’t become too emotionally involved with their cases. Also, in a time when people are quick to over react to perceived slights, calling someone “Mrs.” when they wish to be called “Mr.” or referring to a transgendered person by the wrong subset makes people cross.

    You’re doing a wonderful job with this and I think you should do what makes you feel best about your site. Simple as that.

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