CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — We’ve all seen them – stories reported by local news stations featuring a mugshot for someone arrested for a minor crime that, whose appearance, for lack of a better phrase, has some shock value.
Whatever it is, the only reason for that story’s existence on a station’s website is to generate traffic. The news value is non-existent.
This is one reason KRIS 6 News, Action 10 News and Telemundo Corpus Christi will follow the lead of many of our E.W. Scripps Company sister stations and significantly curtail the use of mugshots in our reporting.
In the United States, people are innocent until proven guilty. Mugshots, however, are inherently biased. When we see someone’s mugshot, our initial reaction is, “they did something wrong.” But an arrest is not a criminal conviction and connecting someone’s picture to an alleged criminal act is not a decision to take lightly.
We hold ourselves to a higher standard of journalism. The mugshot itself doesn’t provide much journalistic value. If we can’t tell a story without a mugshot, perhaps it’s not a story we should tell.
Mugshots also have a disproportionate impact on communities of color and can perpetuate racial stereotypes. They also impact those who are impoverished, specifically those who can’t afford legal representation.
There are, however, times when the use of a mugshot is newsworthy and essential to our mission to inform and protect our community. Accordingly, our policy will allow the use of mugshots under the following circumstances:
- The mugshot is for a wanted person who poses a threat to the community. Once the person is captured and is no longer a threat, we will remove the mugshot image from our platforms.
- The mugshot is for a person who has been arrested, but police believe there may be other victims. It’s important for the public to know what this person looks like.
- The mugshot is for a person who was convicted of the crime on which we are reporting.
There may be instances where the use of a mugshot is warranted but does not fall under one of these three guidelines. In those instances, our journalists will make a decision in line with our company code of ethics and we pledge to be transparent about that decision.
It’s also important to note that we cannot control content that is not produced by our newsroom (NBC, CBS, etc.). We will work to stay true to our mugshot policy even in instances where we utilize this content, but there may be some cases where we can’t escape a mugshot’s use.
Our goal is to create a better-informed world. We do that by providing stories that have real impact in our community. We believe this policy helps focus our reporting on deeper impact while reducing the unintended negative consequences that can come from airing and publishing someone’s mugshot.
Jim Bob Breazeale is the Senior Director of Local Media Content for KRIS 6 News, Action 10 News and Telemundo Corpus Christi. Have a question or comment? Email him at JimBob.Breazeale@kristv.com.