WEST PALM BEACH, Fla — Innocent until proven guilty is at the heart of the U.S. legal system. It is also at the heart of WPTV NewsChannel 5’s policy when it comes to using mugshots in news coverage.
Starting in February, WPTV is reducing and in some cases eliminating the practice of using police-provided booking photos for criminal suspects.
Mugshots are often prejudicial, offer little journalistic value and can have long-lasting impact for the person pictured, especially when used without a guilty verdict.
An arrest is not a criminal conviction and should not be grounds for connecting a person’s image to an alleged act, a decision that can follow that person long after any debt owed to society has been paid, particularly in the digital age.
The use of mugshots often has a disproportionate impact on the impoverished, specifically those who can’t afford legal representation and communities of color. This can perpetuate racial stereotypes.
There are times when a person’s mugshot is newsworthy and essential to our journalistic mission. WPTV will continue to use mugshots when police have an active manhunt underway or there's a search for additional victims. These are circumstances where the public must see the image to avoid potential danger or speak up as a victim. Mugshots may also be used in certain circumstances when a crime is sufficiently newsworthy, or the person is a well-known public figure. Additionally, after a person has been convicted of a crime a mugshot may be used in the context of reporting on the resolution of a case.
Bottom line, our station’s policy has changed. WPTV will not broadcast or publish mugshots without a clear and compelling reason to do so.
WPTV’s mugshot policy also now gives the public an opportunity to file an appeal to remove an existing mugshot.
Here are the ways to request removal:
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject: Mugshot Removal Request. Include name and a link to the story in question.
- Contact News Director Nicole Hogensen (561) 653-5700 or Digital Director Adrienne Stein (561) 653-5779
For more information, you may review the full policy here: