You are Editor: Which picture?

There was a somewhat interesting difference in the coverage of Byron David Smith yesterday, the man who allegedly shot and killed two teenagers who broke into his home last Thanksgiving.

Every picture tells a story. Apparently his attorneys are well aware of that.

This is the picture that mostly accompanied previous stories about Smith, who was indicted on first-degree murder charges this week.


It’s the mugshot from the Morrison County sheriff’s office. It’s not flattering, as mugshots seldom are.

But something changed this week. This is the photo that accompanied many stories.

The picture was distributed by Meshbesher & Associates, Smith’s attorneys.

The two pictures presented a dilemma for news organizations.

MPR and the Star Tribune went with the new one. The Associated Press went with the old one. The Pioneer Press went with the old one, in addition to images of the deceased.

You are editor: Which picture do you use?

  • Steve K.

    Innocent until proven guilty. New picture.

  • BJ

    Which is newer?

    I assume that in court he would look like the latter, distributed by Meshbesher & Associates, so that one makes sense.

  • Luke Van Santen

    Neither. How does (and did) he look in every-day, real life?

    And on a related note, since he is (though still innocent) linked to a crime, how do the other involved parties of that crime look?

  • KTN

    “And on a related note, since he is (though still innocent) linked to a crime, how do the other involved parties of that crime look?”

    They look dead.

  • Bob Collins

    I just won a bet.

  • Chuck

    Please explain the bet.

  • Chuck

    Additionally, why not run both pictures, unless space becomes an issue? If running the second photo, it would be well to note that it’s provided by the accused’s attorneys.

  • ajdematteo

    I don’t think either photo helps further my understanding of the story. Both just serve to add sensation. Use the first photo and you’re showing this guy looks like a hot mess, and thus seems more capable of murder. Use the second, and the message changes to, “how could such a well groomed guy in a suit do such a thing?”

    Also, KTN, you just gave me the biggest laugh of the day. You win all the wins.

  • Esther

    I think I’d publish both

  • Jeff

    I generally don’t have a problem with mug shots, but that image is so technically poor that I wouldn’t use it. If the police are going to release a mugshot they should release something that is suitable for print.

  • Luke Van Santen

    KTN – you’re welcome for the softball! Sometimes they just seem to be as big as the moon, don’t they?

    Still waiting to hear more about Mr. Collins’ bet…

  • Sarah Marie

    Mugshot. Mel Gibson’s mugshot was widely circulated. As was Aaron Schaffhausen’s. Same with Lindsay Lohan’s and Casey Anthony’s. Money, lawyers, conenctions, all that doesn’t matter when you are brought to trial for a crime; the mugshot stands as visual proof that justice is underway.

  • Susan

    I’d say mugshot because that’s the one associated to the crime or the story. The portrait shot is not related to the actual event except that’s how the lawyers want to portray him.

  • Mark Gisleson

    Hmm, apparently the option of an actual news photo taken by an actual news photographer is off the table. Philosophically I’d go with the CIA portrait, but since everyone else on the planet gets their mugshot in the news, fairness demands the orange jumpsuit photo be run.

    The victims have nothing to do with this. The real question is how are other people charged with murder presented, and I think we all know that it’s the jumpsuit photo that wins every time.

  • BJ

    Amy Senser – Most, not all, went with a none mug shot. A few did use her mug shot, but since she turned herself in weeks (months) later she had her hair and makeup done in the mug shot. So it was a good photo, for a mug shot.