Creepy diversion: mug shot galleries find a home on newspaper Web sites

mugsIt’s kind of like Cops or America’s Most Wanted online.

In their never-ending quest to capture more readers and attract fickle advertisers, newspapers are posting mug shot galleries, juxtaposing images of petty criminals with those of murderers and bank robbers alongside now-ignored articles in a scheme that seems to actually be working.

Roger Simmons, digital-news manager for the Orlando Sentinal, told TIME Magazine, “It’s a huge traffic driver for us,” perhaps a testament to some common pursuit of schadenfreude and a latent desire to judge society’s villains from the comforts of a desk chair.

Even Pulitzer-winning papers are joining the devious fray: St. Petersburg Times posts mug shots on their site, TampaBay.com, with a friendly caption above scowling faces that reads: Meet the latest three people booked in Pinellas, Hillsborough, Manatee and Pasco counties.

And though the galleries have been mildly successful in increasing ad revenue, there’s definitely something unsettling about spreading cream cheese on a bagel while images of sullen car thieves stare back.

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