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Old 08-05-2020, 07:08 PM
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Default Letter from the Editor: You won’t see as many mugshots of criminal suspects going forward

https://www.oregonlive.com/opinion/2...forward.html-2

Letter from the Editor: You won’t see as many mugshots of criminal suspects going forward
Posted Jul 12, 2020

Readers of The Oregonian and OregonLive have seen few mugshots of criminal suspects in recent years, and they are about to see even fewer.

For the past many months, The Oregonian has rarely published mugshots in print. The people who design our news pages say they use very few mugshots, which is the term we use for small photos of a person’s face, whether depicting a suspect or a CEO, because they rarely add much of interest.

As a young editor, I recall being surprised by research that showed few newspaper readers stopped to look at mugshots. I would have guessed otherwise. The eye-tracking research, conducted by the Poynter Institute for Media Studies, showed readers first looked at the largest photo on the page, then the headline, followed by the photo caption and finally the story. Mugshots received hardly any attention.

Several news organizations recently have stopped offering online galleries of mugshots from local jails, even though the galleries drove plenty of traffic to their websites. One of the advantages of newspapers over television is the ability to give added context and deeper reporting. Mugshot galleries did neither. (OregonLive never offered such galleries.)

Our decision to reduce our use of mugshots follows a move last year to avoid using them as the main image in an online post. When used as the main image, the mugshot is shared on The Oregonian’s social media accounts without needed context, and the overly large image at the top of an article gave it undue weight.

Going forward, we will limit publishing mugshots on OregonLive to particularly heinous crimes, when the mugshot itself is the story (remember Faces of Meth?), when someone is a fugitive and when police are trying to identify a suspect. We’ll publish them when someone is suspected of additional crimes and police are trying to find more victims. In the case of stranger-to-stranger sexual abuse, for instance, it may be helpful for victims or witnesses to be able to see the suspect’s face.

I can’t imagine all scenarios so there may be others where editors will use their discretion to include a mugshot.

In routine cases, however, we won’t publish mugshots and in fact haven’t been publishing nearly as many as in the past.

We think it is best to stop using for minor crimes because we often don’t follow up on criminal accusations. An arrest may be noteworthy, but a plea deal several months or even years later gets overlooked. Or charges are dropped. Or someone is found not guilty.

This is mainly an issue outside of Multnomah County where we no longer routinely cover courts. We don’t follow every single criminal case from around the state. Unless someone contacts us, a mugshot, showing a person at one of the lowest moments of his or her life, follows an accused person everywhere with no added context.

Society has shifted as people come to realize that it doesn’t always serve us well to prohibit people with criminal records from gaining employment to help them become taxpayers, homeowners and contributing citizens. When prospective employers check Google and the first thing they see is that mugshot, it can end all job prospects without further conversation or investigation.

This is why many government and other institutions now have stopped asking applicants if they have ever been arrested or convicted, a national movement known as “ban the box.” Oregon has had a “ban the box” law since 2016.

Some news organizations have ended use of mugshots because they tend to reinforce negative stereotypes of racial or ethnic groups. Think about the message if most of the Black faces a reader sees on a news website are sports stars or arrestees.

That is a concern, especially as communities grapple with systemic racism that disproportionately affects people who are Black. We know Portland police, for instance, are much more likely to stop Black drivers.

To be sure, in Oregon, which is less than 3% Black, most of the mugshots we have published show white faces. The Black population in the city of Portland is about 6%.

Some people will see this change as unfairly depriving Oregonians of important information. However, mugshots are widely available online from jail web portals. They are a matter of public record and should remain so. Keep in mind we’ve greatly reduced our use of mugshots in the past year and I’ve heard only two complaints, when a few readers recently wanted us to post mugshots of arrested protesters.

For those who criticize this decision as “politically correct” or who argue we are somehow protecting criminals, I would argue it’s an overdue recognition that mugshots serve little purpose by way of reader understanding of our criminal justice system, which should be our goal.

In fact, in Oregon, investigators began treating the release of mugshots more carefully after a landmark Oregon Supreme Court decision known as “Oregon v. Lawson.”

The Lawson case led some prosecutors to withhold mugshots of suspects for fear of polluting witness memories and opening up a way for defense attorneys to challenge their evidence. When a victim or witness is exposed multiple times to a person’s image, they may mistakenly point to that person as the suspect out of a sense of familiarity.

“Because of the alterations to memory that suggestiveness can cause, it is incumbent on courts and law enforcement personnel to treat eyewitness memory just as carefully as they would other forms of trace evidence, like DNA, bloodstains, or fingerprints, the evidentiary value of which can be impaired or destroyed by contamination,” the court wrote in its 2012 decision.

The justices noted the victim in the Lawson case picked out the man (whose conviction they overturned) only after seeing his mugshot in the newspaper.

“(The victim), however, was unable to identify defendant … until after she had seen defendant or his photograph in suggestive circumstances on several additional occasions. (She) was shown photographic lineups containing defendant’s photograph on at least two occasions while she was in the hospital, but was unable to identify defendant in either lineup.

“It was not until after she had seen a newspaper article with a picture of defendant, and was later brought by police to a preliminary hearing to view defendant in person, that she was able to identify him,” the court said.

It isn't just Oregon..it's the entire group"


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Advance_Digital

Advance Digital


A major contributor to this article appears to have a close connection with its subject. It may require cleanup to comply with Wikipedia's content policies, particularly neutral point of view. Please discuss further on the talk page. (July 2017) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)
Advance Digital
Type
Subsidiary
Founded 1996
Headquarters Jersey City, New Jersey, United States
Owner Advance Publications
Parent Advance Local
Website www.advancedigital.com

Advance Digital provides sales and content strategy, product development and technology to the Advance Local media group, part of Advance Publications.[1] Advance Publications is an American media company owned by the descendants of Samuel Irving Newhouse, Sr.

Advance Local operates 12 local news and information websites affiliated more than 30 newspapers.[2][3] Its headquarters are at 1 World Trade Center in New York, New York. Advance Digital's headquarters are located at the Harborside Financial Center in Jersey City, New Jersey.

The unit's Advance Digital name was established December 16, 2011; its previous name was Advance Internet.[4] Its president is Peter Weinberger.[5] The president of Advance Local, established in 2010 and based in New York, is Randy Siegel.[6]

Advance Local web sites provide local information such as breaking news, local sports, travel destinations, weather, dining, bar guides and health and fitness.[7]
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MardiGras.com
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MLive.com
NJ.com
NOLA.com
OregonLive.com
PennLive.com
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