Inky goes woke with mugshot policy

They have found a new way to shoot themselves in the foot, journalistically.

I am talking about the declining local “paper of record,” the Philadelphia Inquirer, which announced why  it will no longer print mugshots — except when it wants to — with only one of its four stated reasons supporting journalistic norms. Of the others, one actually turns its back on the truth the newspaper is expected to promote.

Would Hugh Grant and Justin Bieber be exempt from Inky ban?

If spoken aloud, the reason would be called a gaffe. In written form, it is an indictment that “wokeness” distorts its journalistic values. For the record, the paramount journalistic value is truth. Here I am talking about traditional news reporting, which is objective, empirical and strives to answer the 5  Ws and the H — the first thing taught to journalists. (Who, What, Where, When, Why, How.)

But first, the background: The use of art has been journalistic tradition since carved wooden blocks provided illustrations to create visual appeal on a page that otherwise would be a mass of gray type.

Under our democracy, trials must be conducted in the open, with rare exception, and journalists are free to report anything that happens there, with rare exception.

It may seem inherently unfair to name someone who has been arrested, and is only a suspect. It is inherently unfair, but the rights of the subject get subordinated to the public’s right to know.

One of the reasons the media reports suspects’ ages, addresses (in a general way, rarely a specific street address), and occupations, is to single out individuals, and separate them from those with an identical name. The mugshot — which is furnished by law enforcement — serves the same purpose, to point the finger of suspicion — not guilt — at the correct person. (It must be admitted the person photographed by police is under stress, is often unkempt, frequently frowning, and thus is made to look guilty.

The Inquirer made a good and fair point that pre-conviction mugshots are inherently unfair, depicting suspects as possible criminals before guilt has been established. That was journalistically defensible.

If only it had shut up there, but no — it had to stray from reason into “wokeness,” acting to insulate readers from the racist thoughts the editor surely believes they harbor.

I printed the link above. You can read and interpret it for yourself.

I said the newspaper turns its back on the truth that it is expected to pursue. In its first point, it notes “because of longstanding racial disparities in arrest rates, mugshots disproportionately feature Black and LatinX people. Unrelenting routine publication of such mugshots strengthens stereotypes and contributes to systemic racism.”

It doesn’t argue the suspects are innocent, just that, basically, it looks bad. The majority of Philly murderers are Black, but the social justice warriors at the Inquirer find such facts . . . racist. They will suppress them, if possible. That’s why “illegal aliens” have vanished, replaced by something like “undocumented workers.” Change the language to distort the facts.

Join with me as I turn back the clock to the late 20th Century, as I remember, and a famous Daily News Page One that was headlined something like “Philadelphia’s Most Wanted.” It contained 10 mugshots we got from law enforcement. Nine of the 10 suspects were Black, one was Hispanic. Here’s the most recent version I could find.

I couldn’t find the Daily News cover, but the roof got blown off the dump with select members of the Black community. They could have engaged in deep soul-searching to explore why so many of its people were on the list, but it was much easier to charge the paper with racism for publishing the unpleasant truth.

Here in the present, another Inquirer alibi is that mugshots exist indefinitely, and are “easily findable through search engines.” Not that easy, but the stories about the crimes and the criminals are. If the paper believes mugshots make it harder for ex-cons to find a job, so do the stories. Is the next step to “wipe clean” the criminal’s print record? Drop it down George Orwell’s memory hole? Is sanitizing history the job of a free press? I don’t think so.

The Inquirer’s final point is ‘the mugshots feature private individuals charged with routine crimes. They are frequently published out of habit. The news value of these photos is often negligible.”

Maybe the news stories are also negligible. Why publish them? Is the Inky working on a new policy: All the news that doesn’t trigger anyone?

There are some exceptions  to the no mugshot rule.

A mugshot can be used when the accused is a public figure. Sure, use a mugshot of someone whose face is well known. Sheer genius. 

Or when the crime attains broad “notoriety.” 

And who decides that — editors in  ivory towers?

Here’s what I know — all crime victims believe they deserve special handling, not their assailants. But in the Politically Correct view of the Inky, the rights of accused criminals dominate yours.

25 thoughts on “Inky goes woke with mugshot policy”

  1. The Inquirer is a complete rag which promotes riots & anarchy.They are also much more racist than anyone can imagine with their play on words they to try and distort the truth.The front page on Sundays has become nothing but soup opera news(always about blacks) and real news is buried inside the newspaper.The good news is almost NOBODY reads this excuse for fair journalism.Their new female reporters are the worst bunch of bigots I have ever read.Are they really as stupid as their columns?Or just advancing the woke,cancel culture agenda?

    As always, well stated. If you want to see the face of criminals, you either have to go to Facebook or catch an electronic scrolling message board ( can’t call them billboards, anymore ). Presently speaking, there are quite a few “pictures suitable for framing” on Facebook. You have your pick of the rich kids, teachers and professional antifa members. At no extra charge. We have a selection of arsonists.
    BTW Mr. Inquirer, if you don’t like the present conditions for “mug shots”, feel free to hang out at the round house with a make up artist and a hair dresser !
    Also lost in the 20th century. I don’t see my picture hanging in the post office anymore ! just say’n’

  3. I am aghast – sort of. But it was a matter of time before the woke dictatorship took over journalism in Philly. It’s been a while in coming and trickling down from other institutions. I remember when I taught at Penn and we had a bunch of robberies in the building where purses of female profs were stolen. Several of us saw the perp going in and out of the offices and when the police came we gave a description of the young man. When the description came over the campus wide email, several of us were accosted for having the temerity to describe him as being African American. Really? And they were supposed to catch and stop him with what descriptor attached I asked.

    1. We discussed identifying by race at the Daily News. My feeling was to ID in all cases, but that could be cumbersome. We dropped it in all cases except in cases of people at large, if I recall correctly.

  4. I take your column with a touch of humor molded over the years with both truth and reality. During the sixties and seventies and even today most photos of those arrested submitted by family were shown in their first holy communion outfit or prom photo to assist in their innocence. If their goal is to ignore systemic crime of one color over another then I suspect they should find sufficient white criminals equal to their percentage in the city and the same percentage of blacks. Having been the recipient of being shown both in photo and cartoon form before any indication of wrongdoing or charge being made can be harmful especially being left open even when a settlement is made conveniently placed on the obituary page on Saturday. But once the act is criminal then color is the most important element of information to produce an arrest and should not be whitewashed.

  5. Speaking of mugshots and memory holes, I have a suggestion for ‘The Morning Yawn’ (I love that). Put Bunch’s mugshot down the memory hole. Most of what he writes could be considered almost criminal. 😁

      1. For 17 years I lived in St Augustine. ‘The Record’ was and still is the daily newspaper. It was known as ‘The Mullet” because on busy news days it was as thin as Saturday’s Inq. But unlike the Inq, it reported, not distorted opining except on the opinion page. And yes it leaned right.

  6. I want to be sure I understand, Stu: The Stinquirer will no longer publish photos of alleged perps because the photos cause us readers to assume the worst, especially if the alleged perp’s photo shows a ‘person of color’ — love that term — right? So…a Black (or non-White) person’s photo automatically causes me racist thoughts, because I’m White? Is that a correct reading of your piece? Tangentially, I do remember incidences when KYW radio would broadcast an alert to listeners that, say, a bank was just robbed and listeners should be on the lookout for ‘two males in their 20s.’ Black? White? Wouldn’t that identifier help in the search for the bad guys? I suspect no mention was made of race because it would be perceived as racists — another prejudgment by the chair-warmers in their ivory towers.

  7. Philadelphia, PA

    Dear Stu & readers,

    Regarding the “woken” and the “unwoken,” I hope I don’t go too far off topic.

    I want to recommend a PBS video devoted to a discussion of “The Social Dilemma,” which is a new NETFLIX documentary devoted to the social and political consequences of prevalent practices of the giant internet platforms.

    “The Social Dilemma:” Lies Spread 6x Faster Than Truth on Social Media | Amanpour and Company.” This video was recently broadcast on public television and runs about 18 Min.


    A central concern of the documentary is that the algorithms of the large-scale platforms, designed to increase and direct attention from individual users, function to break down our sense of common facts, truth and reality, by creating individual “micro-bubbles,” “internet rabbit-holes” and polarization. If we wonder how those with whom we disagree could possibly hold such views, the explanation is that they are continually exposed to an alternative account of the relevant facts. We are not seeing the same information. The argument is that this profit-motivate process, attuned to provision of specialized audiences for advertisers is “ripping apart the fabric of society.”

    I quote the description of the video:
    Does our growing dependence on social media have a dark side? A new docudrama, “The Social Dilemma,” warns that it is breaking down our shared reality. Director Jeff Orlowski joins Hari Sreenivasan to discuss this, alongside Tristan Harris, who heads up the Center for Humane Technology and also appears in the film. Originally aired on September 11, 2020.
    —End quotation

    The argument of the documentary and of those interviewed in the PBS video suggests that the contemporary practices of the internet platforms illustrates the break down of the market’s beneficial “invisible hand.” The profits of giant corporations are being achieved by means of pernicious disservice to society.

    H.G. Callaway

  8. Another great read Stu. The comedy of the whole thing that it promotes stereotypes but they’re not really stereotypes if it’s truth. Lol.

  9. I loved the Inquirer back when it had a DIVERSE collection of columnists and reporters, giving the reader honest accounts of what was actually happening. Now, most stories have to have the “Special Sauce” of either social justice or climate change injected into them, regardless of need or relevance. The good news is that they are committing financial suicide by becoming merely a narrowly focused urban social justice warship, unaware or uncaring that it’s traditional subscriber base included areas outside of the heart of Philly. I gave up my subscription, except for Sunday. I just read the Sports and Business sections. When they fold next year, I’ll just get my sports news frim The Athletic.

  10. The Inky might as well be a State-run newspaper the way that it reads. The same with The New York Times and Washinton Post. And look at how many stories it carries from those two. The left bent isn’t even disguised anymore in its news reporting. It’s as though they’ve been taught that way. And opinions? I read the New York Post columnists. Fact based, unlike you know who.

    1. Tom: the Soviet Union had two newspapers, PRAVDA (which means TRUTH) and IZVESTIYA (which means NEWS). The joke among the people was, “There is no PRAVDA in IZVESTIYA, and no IZVESTIYA in PRAVDA.” Sort of like what we now have in the USA with the MSM and our local rags.

      1. Exactly Vince,

        We’re in the middle of a political revolution masked in all kinds of cultural mishmash, right out of Marxist propaganda, brought to you by an instep Democratic party. And our msm is guilty by  carrying the message willingly. If this ever fully blooms, the media will then be state controlled. The signs are everywhere and the dangers will multiply right up to, and beyond, November 3rd. No matter the outcome, Obama’s getting his “Change.”

        Happy Constitution Day! 

        POI, Nine years ago today was Day One of Occupy Wall Street. My wife and I were on a bus tour of Manhattan, and saw them organizing. We love NY, but now are afraid of being found dead there. That’s how all this works…FEAR

  11. after 35 years as a subscriber to both(yes!) both the daily news and the yawn I cancelled because of their outrageously left woke defense of the mayhem destroying my west philly neighborhood.What amuses me now is that I get weekly phone calls from hapless yet understanding salesmen about resubscribing.Since I was mocked daily for years by anyone under the age of 90 for still reading a newspaper I wonder just who the paper feels their audience could be?

    1. First, thanks for your support. Second, you make a VERY cogent point about who subscribes to the paper. They seem to be appealing to a market that will NEVER buy a “paper” and which has little interest is news, generally.

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