Oracle policy: no more mugshots

Should News Organizations Use Mugshots?

We’ve all tuned in to the local news at 6 and seen a rather unflattering mugshot flash up on the screen while the anchor explains who the person is and why they were arrested. Even more common today are tabloid websites and Facebook groups that share every single mugshot collected each day.
It’s easy to see how at one time the use of mugshots by the media was helpful, maybe even necessary. Today, however, mugshots last forever on the internet and can do major damage to a person for years even if they were innocent of the supposed crime.
Here at the Oracle, we do not believe in the practice of showing mugshots in the newspaper or online for entertainment or ad revenue. We are sensitive to the fact that certain situations call for the use of mugshots, but print media, especially a weekly newspaper, is the least likely to be effective in those types of situations. For example, if a convict escapes a prison and is at large with a weapon, the television station should show a mugshot to warn the public of the danger in their area. This is not really feasible with this publication as the criminal would probably have fled or been captured by the next time we go to print. Our website and Facebook pages might be of use, but still, that is one of the only cases that seems logical to show a mugshot in our current times.
The question at the heart of this issue is, “what does a mugshot do for the audience.” At one time, they served as a public service to spread awareness of a danger or crime spree. Now, they act almost as a form of entertainment. We’ve come to expect a mugshot every once in a while of a thug from Little Rock who broke somebody’s car window for no reason. This one time occurrence is of little consequence to a viewer in Arkadelphia.
What about public figures and celebrities? Should we get to see their mugshots? Absolutely. Whenever an NFL player gets drunk and runs over a pedestrian, their photo should be fair game. Becoming a household name comes with the burden of being everyone’s entertainment even at your own expense.
Seeing as how we are not a tabloid publication and Arkadelphia is not swarming with celebrities, I’d say that there is little chance of finding a mugshot of one in a subsequent issue of the Oracle.
As the internet affects more and more of our lives, each news organization is going to come up with their own policies and code of ethics. This isn’t an easy topic to make a blanket statement about, as each case can be vastly different from the next.
The problem we see is that there is a trend of media organizations (especially traditional media) of pandering to the basal desires of the audience. It is easy for local news agencies to create mugshot galleries for increased ad revenue based on clicks, but this low hanging fruit should be avoided because ruining someone’s life for one extra click does not line up with the principles of journalism that we at the Oracle believe in.
Traditional media needs to find a happy medium between going obsolete in the age of the internet and trying to become something they are not. Our paper will never be like the tabloid websites or Facebook crime watch pages, but we have something that those things don’t have. Over a century of credibility and combined experience, along with professional journalists and dedication to our journalistic principles.
The bottom line is that media organizations need to return to their ethics and values and not be guided by profits. The practice of printing mugshots is outdated because it won’t help catch Jesse James or Bonnie and Clyde anymore. Instead, it feeds into cancel culture and ruins a person’s future based on something they may or may not have done years ago. As an organization,we hope to see this practice disappear from newsrooms across the country in the coming years, while leaving room for special exclusions.