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Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by Gator, Jun 26, 2016.

  1. Gator

    Gator Well-Known Member

    Saw something that kind of disgusted me the other day. A police department in my region posts the mugshots of people it arrests on its Facebook page, and because the internet is a cesspool, the comments are just horrible. Turns out, this is not uncommon. Some of the arrests are for worse offenses (heroin possession, DUI), but others are on warrants.

    The NYT tackled the subject last summer in the article below, and most departments post them under the guise of "keeping the public informed." I have a major problem with this, because not one those people have been convicted of a crime. I'm quite sure the department in question isn't following each case through the judicial process. Personally, I believe it ruins the department's credibility, especially when they allow Facebook comments to tee off on these people. Some, surely, deserve it. Others do not. This isn't much different than tarring and feathering.

    But it also got me thinking. Does your shop use mugshots ever/often? The only time we publish a photo is when it is received from the police and the person in question is at-large (or something similar).

  2. reformedhack

    reformedhack Active Member

    In my market, the newspaper that holds itself up as the paragon of journalistic virtue, ethics, truth, justice and the American Way has an entire section of mugshots on its website — a database of every arrest during the last 60 days in a four-county area.

    From what I understand, it pulls blockbuster traffic.

    And, as noted, no one whose photo appears there has been convicted of a crime -- only charged. That includes people who are booked for procedural violations, such as not presenting identification (even if they've forgotten it at home), right along side those who are booked for murder.

    The site also has gotten some criticism from some corners because it aggregates and presents a ton of vital statistics about the arrested parties -- age, height, weight, gender, eye color -- but doesn't aggregate race.
    Gator likes this.
  3. Shit, we have publications that prints mugshots - that's all they do. You have to pay to have your mugshot removed from their accompanying website.
  4. franticscribe

    franticscribe Well-Known Member

    It's not the police departments that are the real problem. It's the parasitic websites that put up booking photos and then charge $100-$300 to take them down.

    I don't see a huge need for police to routinely publish booking photos, but I don't really care if they do, either. I worry about booking photos being taken out of the public record because of the aforementioned websites. We've seen attempts to make them non-public in our state and I know it's come up in other places as well.
  5. Batman

    Batman Well-Known Member

    I'm not sure if our shop has an official policy, but we usually seem to run mugshots and perp walk photos associated with arrests for major crimes like murders. We have three or four of those a year.
  6. Gator

    Gator Well-Known Member

    Our shop will generally go to the arraignment.
  7. justgladtobehere

    justgladtobehere Active Member

    Don't you need an all-or-nothing policy? Why are some arrests worthy of publishing a mug shot while others are not? If you do it on notoriety, whether of the crime itself or the person involved, you are making an arbitrary decision because everybody has only been accused.
  8. Ace

    Ace Well-Known Member

    I think that "arbitrary decision" is called news judgment.

    Say 20-year-old Whitey Trash is charged with killing 3 people in your town. He doens't have a Facebook page or photo gallery online. The mug shot may be the only image you can get of young Whitey.

    You gonna refuse to publish it because you don't run mug shots of folks charged with loitering?
  9. justgladtobehere

    justgladtobehere Active Member

    Your hypothetical is so extreme it's meaningless. Who reports on loitering? My issue is when reporting a newsworthy crime you cannot pick and choose when it is appropriate to post a mug shot based on the severity of the crime, the person accused or the availability of other photos. If you believe it is wrong and prejudicial to post mug shots, that has to be the case in every situation. If a newspaper wants to have a page dedicated to mug shots, God bless them, but they shouldn't choose which ones to run beyond some fixed line like felony/misdemeanor.
  10. Ace

    Ace Well-Known Member

    In this very thread, folks said their papers print every mug shot (which could include people charged with loitering or whatever).

    Talk about extremes. Is there a news organization in this country that believes it is wrong and prejudicial to post a mug shot? I am not aware of any.

    I would guess most daily/weekly papers that report a crime have no problem running a mug shot of the person charged if they have access to it. (Unless they have a better photo.)
  11. BurnsWhenIPee

    BurnsWhenIPee Well-Known Member

    Not only don't you need an "all or nothing" policy, it's lazy and irresponsible to approach it like that. Have the backbone to make a decision based on news judgment and stand behind it. If the mayor gets popped for a DUI, run the mugshot. If a teacher is arrested for diddling a student, run it.

    If Joe Nobody is held because he broke into a car, who cares? Don't run it.

    I think the original post was about the papers that take the wholesale dump of mug shots provided by the PD and throws them on their sites for some cheap page views. That also is lazy and irresponsible, IMO.
  12. I Should Coco

    I Should Coco Well-Known Member

    Unfortunately, this is all that matters anymore.

    Like many smaller dailies, our shop has a weekly listing of warrants provided by local law enforcement and "sponsored" by our region's "Crimestoppers" group, which offers rewards for tips that lead to an arrest. We've always run the mugs of those wanted on felony charges in print.

    But in the past year, someone figured out mugs are great clickbait, so all the misdemeanor mugs are attached to the online version of the warrants story.

    "Why not the misdemeanor mugs in print?" some of us have asked. Besides not having enough room, "there's a different standard for online versus the print edition," we were told.

    Weak sauce.
    Ace likes this.
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