Newsrooms are rethinking their use of mugshots in crime reporting

Editor’s Note: Because of discussions during the House State Government Committee meeting on Thursday, about the use of photos of death, rape, sexual abuse (see the segment on House Bill 174), I may not have otherwise included this article so quickly. However, several legislators expressed opposition to the media using jail mugshots “when an individual is just arrested and has not been convicted.” They also noted that some companies offer to remove mugshots from the internet, “for a fee.” And that fee is often pretty substantial.
From this article, there is a move afoot by the media itself to not use such mugshots. I’m not aware of any Kentucky newspaper that is removing use of the photos, and certainly not suggesting newspapers should. But when comments are made in public meetings stating opposition to whatever the situation might involve, you can expect legislation to be filed that will address the issue. We’ll continue watching legislation for anything that might address use of mugshots.
By Keri Blakinger, Poynter
Some are red-eyed from crying, others visibly drunk. Some sport black eyes or jarring face tattoos. Occasionally, one offers an addled grin.
Online mugshot galleries, where news organizations post rows of people who were arrested, once seemed like an easy moneymaker for struggling newsrooms: Each reader click to the next image translated to more page views and an opportunity for more advertising dollars.
But faced with questions about the lasting impact of putting these photos on the internet, where they live forever, media outlets are increasingly doing away with the galleries of people on the worst days of their lives.
Last month, the Houston Chronicle became the latest major paper to take that plunge. At an all-hands staff meeting, the paper’s editors announced their decision to stop posting slideshows of people who have been arrested but not convicted —and who are still presumed innocent under law.

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