The Storey Teller has posted Arrest Reports both with and without Mug Shots.
In posting Mug Shots, I am conflicted.
On the one hand, they serve as a (perhaps ineffective) deterrent; If you don’t want your face to show up in the public shaming gallery you might think twice about embarking on a life of crime. Sheriff Antinoro sends them out specifically for that purpose. If we have a husband beater or thief in our community, the community needs to know about it.
On the other hand, if you got a ticket and you couldn’t pay it because you chose to feed your kids instead of paying the ticket and you couldn’t show up to court to beg for mercy or payments because you would get fired and you got a bench warrant issued for your arrest and your friend got pulled over and you had to hand over your ID for a warrant check you got arrested on the outstanding warrant, is it fair to publish your picture next to the husband beaters and the drunk drivers?
I got into this discussion with my good friend Peter the Dane, a Danish Journalist I met earlier this year while he was traveling the United States writing stories for Denmark’s most widely read magazine. In Denmark, it is illegal to discuss the criminal convictions of anyone not convicted of a felony and getting less than a year sentence. As in you can’t name the person when they get arrested or during the trial. He thinks the idea of public humiliation is morally bankrupt. And he has an excellent point.
Here in the States the news media lives by the sensationalist credo “If It Bleeds, It Leads”. I found myself falling victim to this mentality when I first started this news site because I wanted to scoop the local fish wrap. I quickly realized it is laughably easy to scoop the Comical because they print once a week. My iPhone can post at the scene of the news if the mood strikes me, nothing more instantaneous than that. So I decided to take a more judicious approach to breaking news. While mug shots aren’t breaking news, they are sensationalist.
Angela Mann, the last real journalist to cover the Comstock, told me that the Sheriff’s Office Incident report was the first place her readers turned because they wanted to see what the scofflaws were up to in their neighborhood. She said the Mug Shots were part of what titillates the hidden gossip in us all, reading the misfortune of others.
So what do we do?
Do I Post the Mug Shots because I want to give my readers what they want? Even if I know that at least one or two of the sad eyes are victims themselves?
Do I print the arrest details without the picture? Only print the picture of people arrested of Felonies? Simply ignore them altogether.
Well, kind reader, you tell me.
Post a comment and let me know about how you feel.
Inquiring minds want to know…