Post: Afflicting The Afflicted?

Recently, the Palm Beach Post began posting daily slideshows of mugshots of the poor souls booked into the Palm Beach County Jail. The first newspaper I ever saw do this was the Key West Citizen (though I can't find the feature today -- the Cooke Communications website is just awful) and I can't decide whether I like the practice or not.

On the one hand, it's like a super police blotter, showing not only the crimes committed and the names of the accused but also their faces. It can also be revealing, almost achieving the status of art -- one portrait after another of the downtrodden, each telling a kind of story and hinting at a much deeper one.

But is it right to trot out the photos of people at their low points when they are, as the Post proclaims, "innocent until proven guilty"? Isn't this just adding more punishment and humiliation to those who are presumed innocent? (And some of them, of course, ARE innocent). Let's not kid ourselves, there's a real "sucks to be them!" glee at work here and I'm not sure it's appropriate for a serious newspaper to engage in it. After all, isn't it the newspaper's job to sort out which of the crimes (and criminals) deserve to be reported on?

I'm obviously ambivalent on it, but I'm going to go ahead and say I'm against the practice.


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