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Over the past few years, an increasing number of newsrooms have reversed a long-standing practice of publishing mugshots. Recently arrested individuals are awaiting trial to determine guilt or innocence, and many news organizations have come to recognize the damage that can be done to a person, who may yet be vindicated, by printing their mugshot or flashing it across the airwaves.
So when the E.W. Scripps-owned CBS affiliate KMTV Omaha, Neb., announced in June that viewers would see fewer mugshots during its broadcasts, it was a conscientious act, but not a completely revolutionary one. However, in this time of prioritized breaking news, story counts in A and B blocks and relentless 24-hour news cycles, it was unusual for KMTV to bring one broadcast to a halt and have its anchors serve up a story from reporter Aaron Hegarty about the new station policy.
In his piece, Hegarty noted that the KMTV news crew “realized mugshots are often a snapshot of someone at their worst moment, perhaps fueled by mental health-, addiction- or trauma-related issues.” In addition to his broadcast segment, a written version of his report for the KMTV website also explained that the station will air mugshots only when the subject has been found guilty, when they are at large and considered dangerous or when police believe there could be other victims related to the crime of which they are accused.
The content was inspired by talks, tips and training sessions that the KMTV staff engaged in with Trusting