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Newspapers have a quirky kind of give and take with their readers. Typically it’s a predominantly giving relationship — that is until the newspaper does something readers don’t particularly agree with, and then the newspaper takes it… on the chin.
Such was the case recently when the Monitor made the decision to start publishing mug shots in its weekly Police Beat, that’s become a standard feature on the Tuesday front page over the past several months. Mug shots are, after all, as accessible as the arrest reports that go along with them.
The Monitor, in an effort to remain fresh in its approach to delivering information to the community, moved forward with the mug shots. In newsroom discussions leading up to the move, it was noted that moving Police Beat to the front page a couple of months ago had received little comment from readers one way or the other.
Usually, when a newspaper is not ruffling any feathers out in the readership community, about all you’ll hear is, “Great story the other day on…” or “I really liked that photo of the kids playing at the park.”
Similarly, the first week the Monitor ran the mug shots in Police Beat there was little reader reaction except for a couple of comments that were evenly split: one was in favor of the move and the other was not. The second week evoked a handful of e-mails and three phone calls — all opposed to the mugshots for varying reasons.
The negative reader reaction ran the gamut. Some said running the mugs on the front page made it look like Los Alamos is crime-ridden. Others said the practice was humiliating for the people who were arrested and charged with crimes. Those comments left the newsroom scratching their heads somewhat wondering if having your name associated with a criminal charge in print is in some way any less odious than a mug shot.
It’s worth noting here that the opening lines to Police Beat each week clearly states: “Charges or citations listed in Police Beat do not imply innocence or guilt.”
The Monitor newspaper and its associated website represent a multimedia platform capable of delivering news and information almost instantaneously to the Los Alamos community and beyond. Community journalism involves delivering the news — both good and bad — fairly, accurately and objectively. The goal is to always remain a worthy steward of the public’s trust.
While negative reader feedback was by no means from a large representation of overall readership, the Monitor does listen. As of today, the Police Beat feature has been moved to an inside page in the paper.
Input and feedback from readers helps keep the Monitor engaged and vital in the community it serves. Don’t hesitate to contact the paper at any time. Your input is valued.