Peter Scheer: NYT still has the power to alter the facts of the very story on which it is reporting

From First Amendment Coalition: Long gone are the days when major newspapers and network news operations had the power, through their selection of stories, to set the political agenda. That's a change for the better, to be sure. But the best of the ancient media regime are still peerless in their ability to compel change in the actions of the people and institutions they report on.

Take for example an article in the business section of Sunday's New York Times about commercial websites that publish police mugshots — millions of mugshots obtained as public records from police departments across the country. These websites are in the humiliation business, posting mugshots indiscriminately, with no consideration for whether the pictured individuals have ever been convicted of a crime.

Worse, most of these websites are also in the extortion business: They offer to remove a mugshot for a fee.

The Times' very thorough story (by reporter David Segal) is hardly the first about this particular nether niche of the internet. Earlier news coverage appeared in Wired, Gizmodo, Niemanlab, Yahoo, and Searchengineland, among other outlets. But here's the difference: while the other stories about these websites could be ignored by powerful interests that have enabled and profited from them, the same firms sprung into action when they learned the Times was planning a story.

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Peter Scheer is executive director of the First Amendment Coalition. The First Amendment Coalition is a member of NFOIC. –eds