Chattanooga, Tennessee’s newspaper, the Chattanooga Times Free Press, is joining hundreds of other papers across the nation in no longer displaying the mugshots of everyone arrested in Hamilton County, where the city is located.
The paper has published the images for the past 10 years on a site called Right2Know, and the mugshot portion of the site closed Aug.12. The gallery was publicly available information; all the paper did was make it available on one site.
Editor Alison Gerber recently wrote, however, that “after months of discussion, we have concluded that making the gallery of mugshots widely available is not consistent with our mission to serve and inform our community.”
That’s because publishing photos of arrested people “reinforces negative stereotypes, presents a limited and potentially distorted view of the events surrounding the arrest, and in most cases does not provide necessary context or uphold journalistic values.”
Farther down in her lengthy explanation of the policy change, however, comes the real reason for stopping a feature that drew, in Gerber’s words, “millions” of clicks every month.
“In recent months, dozens of newspapers across the country have discontinued such galleries amid criticism that they are an arena for public shaming, disproportionately show Black and brown faces and over-emphasize the police version of events at a time when policing is under great scrutiny.”
So there is an inconvenient truth that yet another paper is trying to obscure from public view, an unpleasant fact that it was putting on display for the whole community — and world — to see:
Arrests for crimes from passing bad checks all the way up to homicides are “disproportionately” of “Black and brown” suspects. And racist police cannot be depended upon to arrest the right people.
Leave it up to modern American “journalists” to make it their mission to hide ugly facts.
Why not instead inquire into the real reason “Black and brown” people so often run afoul of the police? Like broken families, government dependency, and a media-glorified culture of crime, violence and mistreatment of women?