WRAL News changing policy on arrest photo galleries

Posted March 13, 2020 2:33 p.m. EDT
Updated March 13, 2020 5:15 p.m. EDT

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WRAL News has decided to stop publication of arrest photo galleries on WRAL.com effective Monday, March 16. In its place, WRAL.com will offer maps that plot reported crimes and arrests for much of the WRAL viewing area.

The so-called “mugshot” galleries were launched more than a decade ago. A 2016 survey of newspapers found that 40 percent of those surveyed were running arrest photos similar to the WRAL.com galleries.

In recent years, however, many observers have begun to question the value of these photos and their potential for either reinforcing or creating stereotypes.

The photos are generated by automated data feeds supplied by county jails. There is no follow-up on whether any of the hundreds of people arrested each week are convicted, acquitted or have had their cases dismissed, perhaps contributing to a presumption of guilt rather than a presumption of innocence.

The crime maps provide value by allowing the WRAL viewers and visitors to search for crime reports and arrests near their homes, offices and other locations. No names or photos are shown on these maps.

With this change, WRAL will join media companies such as Scripps and the Houston Chronicle in removing mugshot galleries.

While WRAL.com will no longer publish galleries of arrest photos, the website and TV station will continue to use arrest photos in news coverage, especially when police are searching for a suspect deemed to be dangerous or when authorities may be trying to find additional crime victims.

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