Readers have been generally divided about how The Kansas City Star has covered the case of F. Glenn Miller Jr.
Miller made international news last year when he was arrested for killing three people at two Jewish centers in Johnson County.
He had been well known for years, first as a member of the Ku Klux Klan, and then for many years later as he sought publicity with a number of anti-Semitic and white-supremacy causes.
I have heard impassioned pleas for The Star to expose Miller’s past activities to make it clear that these types of threats do sometimes escalate into real-world violence.
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On the other hand, some readers contacting me have urged The Star to cover the news of his trial but to take pains to minimize any sensationalistic aspects of it, and most particularly not to elevate Miller’s public persona any further.
“Don’t let him become a celebrity,” one caller told me last week.
That’s a sentiment I have heard many times through the years about Miller and other people charged and convicted of crimes. It’s obvious that Miller was a constant attention-seeker before he allegedly turned to violence.
I agree that journalists should avoid anything that smacks of self-aggrandizement. Readers most often perceive this in photographs. Even when images of Miller have pictured him looking physically weak in a wheelchair, I’ve heard objections that he is photographed at all.
“You know he’s just loving knowing his (photo) is all over the newspaper,” said one caller.
One major detail about Miller’s case has caused more confusion than complaint.
“Is the guy’s real name Cross or Miller?” asked a recent emailer. “The paper seems to prefer Miller. The TV networks seem to use Cross. Not that it really matters to me, but it would appear that his name is actually Cross. Unless he legally changed his name, it seems like using a self-styled name of Glenn Miller is a little disingenuous.”
He’s right — it is confusing. A story that ran in April 2014 addressed the issue.
But this is a perfect example of something that journalists often lose sight of, in my opinion: It’s the job of reporters, editors and photographers who follow a developing story to retain details about past coverage. They know the people and situations in great detail.
Not everyone reads every story, though. And not everyone remembers past coverage.
As the previous story explained, Miller appears to have been shielded in the federal witness protection program in the 1990s, after he testified against associates in paramilitary and white supremacist groups.
His book “A White Man Speaks Out” uses the name Glenn Miller. In court, he has asked to be referred to as Frazier Glenn Miller.
But there’s a Social Security number under the name Frazier Glenn Cross Jr. from 1990 — the year he was released from prison. And that’s the name he’s charged under in court documents.
Bottom line: There’s plenty of confusion to go around in this one. It wouldn’t be a bad idea for ongoing stories to briefly clarify the reason for the dual names.