Not So Dangerous

RECEIVED Sat., July 4, 2020

Dear Mr. Bingamon,
    I hope you are well. Thank you for your thoughtful and thorough article in The Austin Chronicle on Mr. Billy Joe Wardlow. It is rare that large media organizations take such an effort to give a full picture of someone who is considered to be unsympathetic by so many people. I was especially touched by the closing line in your article: "So you know, it's not just that he's not one of the worst of the worst. He is, as a human being, one of the best of the best. He is that." It is such a touching quotation. However, I could not help but think that this conclusion is in direct contradiction with the headline of the article: “A Dangerous Man.” [News, June 26]
    Mr. Wardlow was sentenced to death due to a pseudo-scientific “future dangerousness” assessment, which cast him as a cold-blooded monster when he was no more than 18 years old. From your article, I can tell that you disagree with such a condemnation. He is, in fact, not at all “a dangerous man.” While I understand that this article headline might have been added to highlight the irony of such a label, these three words, "A Dangerous Man," are one of the first things that a casual reader and citizen encounters when searching Mr. Wardow on the internet. It is the second hit on Google. Your article is quite long, and even though I hope that every reader reads it to the end, the headline is probably as far as most readers get. In other words, your article actually deepens the perception that Mr. Wardlow is a dangerous man who is worthy of execution. That is not only perilous for Mr. Wardlow but also untrue.
    I’m sure that this article was edited many times by other reporters and editors in your office. Perhaps you also agree that this headline must be altered and have your hands tied. But if it is at all possible, I urge you to please change the headline to more accurately reflect the content of your article and the true character of Mr. Billy Joe Wardlow. It is his life that is on the line.
Yours sincerely,
Fonda Shen
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