For years, ARLnow used to do what most local news outlets would do when there was a crime story to report: include the suspect’s name and (often) a mugshot.
Times change, however, and we now generally avoid use of mugshots except when there’s a greater news value in running them. And we no longer name criminal suspects, with the exception of public figures, those involved in major criminal cases, and situations in which the suspect’s identity is a key component of the story.
(We do, however, often link to police department crime reports where suspects are named. And for instances in which we do report on a court case and its ultimate disposition, we will continue to name the suspect or suspects involved.)
That policy was only put in place within the past year or two, after an examination of whether the public benefit of naming minor criminal suspects was worth the societal cost of that information living forever on the internet. It followed an earlier policy in which we would remove a suspect’s name upon request in circumstances. Both policies take into account the fact that we don’t have the resources to follow up on all of the court cases of suspects in relatively minor (or not otherwise notable) cases.
This holiday season, we believe that people deserve a second chance, so we’re now proactively going back and deleting any mugshots we published, except those associated with major criminal cases, from 2018 and back. We’ll also be redacting the names of most suspects.
We know some people will disagree with this policy, while others may cheer it. Our first journalistic instinct is to provide more factual information rather than less, but in this case we think providing full information about cases, except for names and mugshots, strikes a good balance.
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