Gannett Publishing owns some 26 newspapers around the country, and they sent out a decree this week that none of their outlets would publish mugshot galleries any longer. Claiming that these galleries – populated as they are by minorities – only reinforce the public’s perception that minorities are the ones disproportionately committing crime, newspapers like The Orlando Sentinel and the Tampa Bay Times will no longer put them in the paper.
We wouldn’t, after all, want something spurious like real-time statistics to get in the way of The Big Narrative.
“The galleries lack context and further negative stereotypes,” said Mark Katches of the Tampa Bay Times. “We think the data is an important resource that our newsroom will continue to analyze and watch carefully, but the galleries alone serve little journalistic purpose.”
Analyze, watch carefully, and shield from the public if it doesn’t match up with the agenda you’re trying to brainwash people into agreeing with, in other words. While we might ordinarily agree that mugshot galleries have a dubious journalistic purpose, if they run precisely contrary to this widespread narrative that police are going out of their way to brutalize innocent black men…well, then we’d say they have a pretty significant purpose, indeed. We have to guess that your real problem isn’t that they serve no purpose but that they don’t serve your purpose.
“Mugshot galleries presented without context may feed into negative stereotypes and, in our editorial judgment, are of limited news value. Instead, we will focus on the best ways to inform our readers by providing relevant information that will keep our communities safe and continuing to cover crime, as well as the public safety system,” Gannett said in a statement. “This policy change does not impact the use of mugshots associated with articles or other editorial content.”
But again, that term “negative stereotypes” is doing a lot of lifting in this statement. If you look at a week’s worth of mugshot galleries and conclude that most black people are criminals, then yes, you are buying into a fictitious stereotype. But if you look at those galleries and conclude that most criminals are black and brown people? Well, is that really a “stereotype,” negative or otherwise? It just seems like a direct stating of the facts.
We understand that those facts may be uncomfortable for intellectual liberals to stomach, but their aversion to the truth should not play any role in determining what the newspaper does and does not publish.