The Alachua Chronicle started publishing jail booking logs on June 8, 2020, in response to reader demand after the Gainesville Sun’s parent company, Gannett, decided to take down their gallery at http://www.mugshotsgainesville.com/. From Gannett:
I initially did not want to run the booking logs, but Gannett’s explanation was ridiculous: “Mugshot galleries presented without context may feed into negative stereotypes.” How can raw data feed stereotypes? The point of news reporting is to tell people what happened, not what you want them to think or what you wanted to happen. By selectively choosing mugshots for specific articles rather than showing them all, Gannett is actively trying to influence people’s perception of crime.
Gannett’s moralizing and condescension drove me to reluctantly concede that we should provide the daily booking log with mugshots. After a couple weeks of seeing what local law enforcement deals with, I started to see the value of publishing the booking logs.
Looking at the booking logs helps people understand the state of crime in Alachua County, or at least the worst part of it, since we don’t see all police interactions with the public. Our summary of bookings doesn’t begin to capture the nature of the individuals our law enforcement officers have to deal with, often repeatedly. (One individual was booked 7 times in the 7 months we’ve run the booking logs.)
Publishing the entire log, rather than specific crimes because they are particularly horrific or have some sentimental value, paints a better picture of the actual state of crime in Alachua County, not the picture the commissioners, sheriff, or Gainesville Sun want you to see.
Also, publishing the complete log each day has the added benefit of providing some accountability to the system. Area residents can review who is being locked up and why, and decide for themselves if police are or are not abusing their arrest powers.
We will continue to publish the booking logs because they provide valuable information to the community.
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