Gannett Bans Crimethink About Crime in Its Newspapers
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Earlier: Alabama's Stops Publishing Mugshots Because Of Too Many Black Faces

From the Poynter Institute of Journalistic Goodthink or whatever it’s called:

Gannett launches a network-wide push to rework its crime coverage

Fewer mugshots, additional context and moving beyond police narratives are just some of the changes its newsrooms are making

By: Angela Fu
August 9, 2021

As the Atlantic regional editor for Gannett, Hollis Towns is responsible for setting the strategy and tone of the papers within his region. Two years ago, as he was looking at story budgets across his papers, he noticed something concerning.

“I saw more and more reactive crime stories that didn’t connect the dots,” said Towns, who is also Gannett’s vice president for local news. “I saw more people, Black and brown folks who look like me, splattered across all of our front pages and on our websites, and no context offered for what happened and no follow up offered after the story had initially run.”

Editors at the papers in the Atlantic region also knew they had a problem. In New York, Democrat and Chronicle executive editor Michael Kilian realized there was a disconnect between the paper’s coverage of Rochester and what he was personally seeing. An analysis of one month of coverage in 2019 revealed that 20% of the paper’s stories were crime-related. But criminal activity didn’t make up 20% of everyday life in Rochester.

What a brilliant insight into the news, which should be renamed the olds for its new philosophy of blanket coverage of the same old same old. Speaking of blankets, I look forward to the Democrat and Chronicle devoting 30% of its space to covering sleep.

Meanwhile, Arizona Republic director for product and audience innovation P. Kim Bui was reexamining her own paper’s breaking news coverage. The paper had taken a “publish everything” approach until then, covering even the most minor incidents like house fires and missing persons cases that were solved in hours.

Something needed to change. On the East Coast, Kilian reshaped the Democrat and Chronicle’s public safety coverage and helped put together a comprehensive plan to better cover crime in the Atlantic region. In the West, Bui realigned her team’s priorities and drew up a set of values to guide crime reporting.

Their work has led to a Gannett-wide effort to reimagine crime coverage.

Journalists across the newspaper chain, the largest in the country, have been attending trainings this summer to learn how to be more enterprising in their crime coverage, rather than reactive. The goal is to move beyond coverage that lacks context and relies on police narratives to the detriment of marginalized communities.

… Gannett’s new approach to crime coverage, editors say, will focus on offering context, identifying trends and following stories to their end.

In 2018, Gannett started removing mugshot galleries from its sites, a process it finished last year when it removed galleries from its former GateHouse sites. Moving forward, its papers will severely limit the use of mugshots in stories.

Other changes include sunsetting police blotters and encouraging reporters to focus on trends, rather than individual crimes.

I cover crime trends, like how the racial reckoning boosted murders and black traffic fatalities. I’m sure I’ll be getting a call from Gannett to find out how I do it real soon now. I look forward to explaining how Sailer’s Law of Mass Shootings provides needed context for their coverage of mass shootings. I am sure they will appreciatively incorporate my social science breakthrough discovery in their crime coverage.

… The Times recently covered a man who was arrested after being caught on tape shouting racial slurs. In keeping with their new approach to crime coverage, Harvin instructed the paper’s diversity and inclusion reporter to talk to the people at the scene to understand how they were feeling.

“Then we wanted to talk to the target of this man’s racist rant. And we were fortunate enough — because we’re starting to regain that trust — to get an exclusive interview with the victim,” Harvin said. “He trusted our reporter, and we were able to tell his story in the way that he wanted to tell us, not the way we thought it should be told.”

The Times continued to follow that story after the initial arrest. In the past, it wasn’t uncommon for a crime to receive zero follow-up coverage. But that is changing. The goal now is to cover crimes from beginning to end.

The goal is to cover fewer but better crimes, hopefully white on black crimes. As we can see from all the late-breaking Emmett Till headlines, the ideal crime story never ever ends.

… Bui said she is less worried about the people who will be upset by the changes the Republic is making.

E.g., crime victims. After all, how many diversity Pokemon points do you get for being a crime victim? And their stories are all so stereotypical. The guy who mugged you was a black teen in a hoodie? Borrrrrrring! It’s not news just because it newly happened. In contrast, Emmett Till is always news.

Look, it’s simple: there is Good News (e.g., a Bad Person, i.e., white, does something bad to a black) and there’s Bad News (a Good Person does something bad to whites, or to other blacks). Gannett is now in the Good News business.

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