Nieman Foundation at Harvard
HOME
          
LATEST STORY
Newsonomics: On end games and end times
ABOUT                    SUBSCRIBE
April 9, 2009, noon

If you’re arrested in St. Petersburg, make sure to smile for the camera

A new archive of mug shots on The St. Petersburg Times’ tampabay.com isn’t wanting for viewers: 100,000 people reportedly visited the site in the first three hours after its debut on Monday. And in some ways it’s just a web iteration of the old police blotter — or a technically advanced version of the old Puritan public stocks.

The feature, which posts a linear gallery of faces oddly reminiscent of The Washington Post’s uplifting onBeing — call this one “onBeing Busted” — includes sortable information by height, weight, gender and location. The busts are typically for the usual drug possessions, DUIs, and other charges a newspaper cop reporter would likely rifle past, looking for something more newsworthy.

Unlike The Smoking Gun, to which is has already been compared many times, it does not limit its focus to celebrities or those accused of particularly spectacular wrongdoing. These are people who don’t usually command the public eye. And unlike some previous efforts, this one seems to be posting even people arrested for misdemeanor offenses — not to mention a few for whom the site says it “had trouble” figuring out the exact charge an individual is facing.

How much is this for reader amusement and pageviews, and how much is for civic impact? Does the lens of the web change the way we think about things previously available as public records, but obscured by their location in some booking folder down at the jail? The mugs stay up for 60 days, and the site helpfully notes “those appearing here have not been convicted of the arrest charge and are presumed innocent.” Just like Cops.

It happened that the Poynter Institute’s multimedia guru Al Tompkins was here in Cambridge Wednesday, and we asked him for his take on it, both as a journalist and as a Tampa Bay resident. (Note that Poynter owns the Times.)

POSTED     April 9, 2009, noon
SHARE THIS STORY
   
Show comments  
Show tags
 
Join the 15,000 who get the freshest future-of-journalism news in our daily email.
Newsonomics: On end games and end times
Can publishers find a sustainable business model this new age of Facebook/Apple/Snapchat/Twitter/Google distributed content? And is local news destined to be left behind?
What Scribd’s growing pains mean for the future of digital content subscription models
It turns out that ebook subscription models don’t work very well when people read too much. So what happens next?
How research (and PowerPoints) became the backbone of National Journal’s membership program
“We no longer look at National Journal simply as a news source, but as a collection of resources, as well as a collection of experts we can turn to on occasion.”
What to read next
2843
tweets
A blow for mobile advertising: The next version of Safari will let users block ads on iPhones and iPads
Think making money on mobile advertising is hard now? Think how much more difficult it will be with a significant share of your audience is blocking all your ads — all with a simple download from the App Store.
1763For news organizations, this was the most important set of Apple announcements in years
A new Flipboard-clone with massive potential reach, R.I.P. Newsstand, and news stories embedded deeper inside iOS — it was a big day for news on iPhones and iPads.
762Newsonomics: 10 numbers that define the news business today
From video to social, from mobile to paywalls — these data points help define where we are in the “future of news” today, like it or not.
These stories are our most popular on Twitter over the past 30 days.
See all our most recent pieces ➚
Fuego is our heat-seeking Twitter bot, tracking the links the future-of-journalism crowd is talking about most on Twitter.
Here are a few of the top links Fuego’s currently watching.   Get the full Fuego ➚
Encyclo is our encyclopedia of the future of news, chronicling the key players in journalism’s evolution.
Here are a few of the entries you’ll find in Encyclo.   Get the full Encyclo ➚
Forbes
AOL
Facebook
ReadWrite
Storify
WyoFile
Hacks/Hackers
New Jersey Newsroom
Newsmax
Chicago Tribune
SeeClickFix
Neighborlogs