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Crime Coverage & Mug Shot Policy

  • Updated

Reporting Crimes:

We agree that sometimes newscasts and news feeds can feel like crime blotters.  The impact of that constant negativity is depressing and demoralizing to a community.  Although we can’t avoid reporting on crimes or negative news,  KHQ, Inc. and Cowles Montana Media Company follow  specific criteria when determining what crimes are covered and how those reports are shared with you.   The following is our crime/mug shot policy.

Journalism Code of Ethics:    

  • Balance the public need for information against the potential of harm.
  • Show empathy and compassion to those affected.
  • Recognize that legal access to information is not necessarily ethical justification to use it.
  • Private people have a greater right to maintain privacy than public figures.
  • Weigh the consequences of publishing or broadcasting personal information.
  • Balance a suspect’s right to fair trial with the public’s right to know.
  • Consider the implications of identifying criminal suspects before legal charges.
  • Make the commitment to provide updated and complete information as the whole event unfolds.  
  • Always be fair, factual, accurate and balanced.

Source:  SPJ

Determining what and how crimes are covered:

Impact:  What is the impact to the victim of crime as well as the surrounding area where the crime has occurred. For example:  Are there barricades, evacuations, and traffic detours.

Clarity:  Maps are used whenever possible to show the specific location impacted and whether people living the area will be affected and the area needs to be avoided.

Safety:  What is the impact and solution to maintain safety for the surrounding area of the crime.   What do viewers specifically need to know to protect themselves?

Solutions:  We promise to take a moment and offer a safety solution, contact phone numbers and other resources whenever possible.


Reporting on suspects and arrests:

We will not give the identity of someone arrested until the person is officially charged.  That means there will be times when we are not first in providing names and identities of suspects.   We would rather risk not being first, to ensure that we are right.

We will identify an arrested person if they are a public figure, or otherwise well known.  If it will help identify other victims.  If there are extenuating circumstances to the crime.   

Mug Shots:

By the very nature of what a mug shot is, we know it is taken on the worst day of most people’s lives.   There have also been cases when an arrest and mug shot is released and the person does not ultimately face charges.  Further, many crime coverage stories focus on economically challenged areas and mug shots often reinforce racial stereotypes.

KHQ. Inc, and Cowles Montana Media Company will use mug shots in the following instances:

  • The suspect is still on the loose.
  • Police have arrested a suspect, but the mug shot could help identify additional victims.
  • The person is a public figure or well-known person, so to clarify identity.
  • In some instances where the person has a common name, in order to prevent confusion for people with the same name.
  • In cases where a capital crime is

Mug shots will not be used:

  • As part of an arrest gallery.
  • We will not use past mug shots for current crime victims, unless there is some extenuating circumstance that is relevant to the current situation.


Pictures/video of juveniles (those under 18 years of age)

While mug shots are not released in WA, ID, and MT for people under 18, who are charged as minors, there are times when we will have to make the editorial decision on whether to name and show a picture/video of the juvenile.  In most cases KHQ, Inc. and Cowles Montana Media Company will NOT identify or show a picture of those under 18, with the public.    

The reason:  Even though it is legal to release this information, our mission to NOT cause additional harm, especially for a minor who’s identification would exist in digital archives long after maturity.

In the extreme circumstance, when we make the editorial decision to release the identify and visuals of a minor, it is for the following reasons:

  • Preventing perpetuation of misinformation.
  • Research, context and perspective of important past background information.
  • The individual will be named only when there is new, important and factual information that the community needs to know.

**In cases of mass shootings, as a journalism organization and stewards of our local community we are wholly aware, and share the very real concern, of potentially glorifying the person responsible and overshadowing those victimized in the attack.

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