Iowa Newspaper’s Choice of Photos for Burglary Suspects: Mug Shots of Blacks, Yearbook Photos of Whites

Monday, April 06, 2015
Burglars' photos in Cedar Rapids Gazette (photos: Cedar Rapids Gazette)

Does an Iowa newspaper have a racial double standard when it comes to running photos of burglary suspects?


When three white University of Iowa students were arrested after being caught with loot stolen from seven homes in the Marion, Iowa, area, The Gazette in Cedar Rapids ran the suspects’ freshman yearbook photos, which showed them looking clean-cut in suits with matching gold ties. When four black men were arrested on the same day for a burglary and assault they committed in a home Coralville, The Gazette ran police mug shots in which they looked the worse for wear, according to David Ferguson of Raw Story.


The white suspects obviously had mug shots taken too, but for some reason weren’t used in the news article. “In trying to justify the discrepancy, The Gazette explained they must make a formal request in order to get mugshots, yet they were clearly willing to take that extra step when it came to the black suspects,” pointed out Caroline Siede of BoingBoing.


The news director of KCRG-TV, which is a partner of The Gazette, denied that any racial bias was behind the photo selections. Company policy, Adam Carros explained to Raw Story, “is to use the best photographs of suspects available when reporting crimes, while always requesting and using mug shots when one is available.” He claimed that photo availability dictated what pictures were used, and that availability, in turn, was dictated by the different policies of the two law enforcement jurisdictions involved.


Carros went on to say that the policy of the sheriff’s station where the black men were arrested is to post mug shot photos on its website (presumably implying that they were instantly available and free to use without a request). But the sheriff’s station where the white men were arrested requires that a formal media request be submitted for suspects’ photos. Since their yearbook photos were found to be available, they were used, said Carros.


Mug shots of the white burglars were added to the article about them when they became available, he pointed out.


However, that wasn’t done until it became an issue on social media.

- Danny Biederman, Steve Straehley


To Learn More:

Charged With Same Crime, Iowa Paper Shows Black Suspects’ Mug Shots But Whites Get Yearbook Pics (by David Ferguson, Raw Story)

White Yearbook Photos vs. Black Mugshots for the Same Crime (by Rafi D’Angelo, So Let’s Talk About It)

New York TV Stations more likely to Report Violent Crimes if Suspects are Black (by Noel Brinkerhoff and Steve Straehley, AllGov)

Prison Sentences for Black Men Are 20% Longer Than Those for White Men for Same Crimes (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)


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