For my last blog post I wanted to write about something that I briefly discussed in my last paper. I’ve seen a lot lately where journalists are including the criminal records of people who have been killed. The idea, I guess, is to suggest some motivation as to why they were killed or to make suggestions about their character.This tactic is somewhat similar to the use of Trayvon Martin’s social media pages to try and justify Zimmerman’s actions.

In a post I did earlier in the semester about leads, I used an article about Charles Smith, the man who was killed by a police officer in Savannah. The article was solely about a rap video that Smith had previously done which depicted him with guns saying some pretty violent things. My issue with this video, however, is that it seemed irrelevant. The question stilled remained: How did the gun that was on Smith go unnoticed if the cops did their job correctly? How did Smith, who was handcuffed and in the back of a patrol car, threaten a cop so severely that he felt like he needed to pull the trigger? I still don’t think these questions have been answered.

There are situations, however, where I believe this information may be important. Like, the Michael Brown case. The media and journalists were quick to release video of Brown stealing from a convenient store moments before he was killed. In this case, I think using this information can be useful and effective. The fact that this happened right before Brown was killed gives the public an idea of Brown’s state of mind that day, even that hour.

I think criminal records are used too often when not necessary. Sometimes, the effect is that it takes the focus off the real story. Ask, what is my motivation in using this and now, is that truly relevant to this story?

When, if at all, would you use someone’s criminal record?