Some are red-eyed from crying, others visibly drunk. Some sport black eyes or jarring face tattoos. Occasionally, one offers an addled grin.
Online mugshot galleries, where news organizations post rows of people who were arrested, once seemed like an easy moneymaker for struggling newsrooms: Each reader click to the next image translated to more page views and an opportunity for more advertising dollars.
Published in partnership with Poynter.
But faced with questions about the lasting impact of putting these photos on the internet, where they live forever, media outlets are increasingly doing away with the galleries of people on the worst days of their lives.
Last month, the Houston Chronicle became the latest major paper to take that plunge. At an all-hands staff meeting, the paper’s editors announced their decision to stop posting slideshows of people who have been arrested but not convicted—and who are still presumed innocent under law.
“Mugshot slideshows whose primary purpose is to generate page views will no longer appear on our websites,” Mark Lorando, a managing editor at the Chronicle, later explained in an email to The Marshall Project. “We’re better than that.”
The news quickly made it onto Twitter, garnering praise from readers, defense lawyers and even law enforcement.
“Thank you, @HoustonChron for doing the right thing,” tweeted Jason Spencer, spokesman for the Harris County Sheriff’s Office. “I’m hopeful that other media outlets and law enforcement agencies will follow your lead and rethink the practice of publicly shaming arrested people who haven’t been convicted of a crime.”