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News & Press: News Release

NABJ President Urges News Organization to Be Judicious in Using Mug Shots

Thursday, August 8, 2019   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Glover Communications Team via NABJ19
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NABJ President Urges News Organization to Be Judicious in Using Mug Shots

 

MIAMI (Aug. 8, 2019) -- National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) President Sarah Glover is calling upon media outlets to restrict the use of mug shot photos in stories.  

Despite studies which show that black people are far more likely to be accused of crime, kept in jail longer and given longer sentences, according to the American Civil Liberties Union (https://www.aclu.org/issues/smart-justice/mass-incarceration/mass-incarceration-animated-series), and exonerated overwhelming more than inmates of any other race (Michigan Law Race and Wrongful Convictions 2017), news outlets overuse mug shots to provide visual content to a story.

Too often such depictions place emphasis on mere accusations, rather than an individual’s role in a given story. It’s also not uncommon that a mug shot is used as the only photograph of a person in a story. 

The NABJ’s Black Male Media Project (BMMP), an initiative to help change the narrative around the lives and images of Black men in the news and in society, has worked on the issue since its inception in 2017. 

“Newsrooms have a moral responsibility to be diligent in their use of mug shots, as well as fair and accurate,” said President Glover.

The BMMP concludes that mug shots without context often project the wrong image and place more emphasis on characterizing the accused. Based on this, NABJ suggested that news outlets make a conscious effort to reduce the use of mug shots overall, and in particular when the subject of the story is a victim or the story is not related to why the mug shot was taken.


NABJ also suggested news organizations should cease posting mug shot galleries. The content is oftentimes used to generate website clicks or emphasize mug shot physical oddities. 


“We believe a concerted effort to find and report stories of Black men and their contributions to their communities is essential and can help elevate the misconception of Black men,” said BMMP Co-Chair Ken Lemon.



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