AP says it will no longer name people charged with minor crimes

The Associated Press will no longer name people who are suspected or charged with minor crimes unless they're on the run.

Often, the AP will publish a minor story — say, about a person arrested for stripping naked and dancing drunkenly atop a bar — that will hold some brief interest regionally or even nationally and be forgotten the next day. But the name of the person arrested will live on forever online, even if the charges are dropped or the person is acquitted, said John Daniszewski, AP's vice president for standards. And that can hurt someone's ability to get a job, join a club or run for office years later. … The AP, in a directive sent out to its journalists across the country, said it will no longer name suspects or transmit photographs of them in brief stories about minor crimes when there is little chance the organization will cover the case beyond the initial arrest.

A good policy and one I hope will become the norm for the obvious beneficiaries—everyday folks who make mistakes—though the standard should be more flexible than "minor crimes" and more precise than "little chance of further coverage". For example, the classic smalltown judge/cop/commissioner DUI arrest is always a crisp wire-ready story. But the years-long quiet wrangling over the consequences rarely ends up with follow-up reporting. To leave them unnamed would be ridiculous.

The AP said it will also not link to local newspaper or broadcast stories about such incidents where the arrested person's name or mugshot might be used.

This seems reasonable, but smells a bit high given the long history of major media (especially city dailies and newswires) refusing to credit or link to local media it aggregates or re-reports. There is, ultimately, a question to confront: if the crime is so trivial that the person committing it deserves anonymity, why are we reporting it?