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Public Safety Reporting Policy

WGLT tries to avoid reporting on crime as a simple matter of an event happening in the community. WGLT should go beyond the simple facts and offer context that holds up a mirror to our society.

Guiding principles

Newsroom resources are finite. Prosecutors file thousands of felony cases each year. No news organization has the capacity to be truly comprehensive in coverage of cops and courts. We must choose only the most important and significant cases to bring to higher public notice.

WGLT typically avoids reporting on crime as a simple matter of an event happening in the community. The exceptions to this are when there is loss of life -- as in homicide cases, or when the crime shocks the conscience of the community. Even in these instances, WGLT strives to go beyond the simple facts and offer context that holds up a mirror to our society. We should not cater to, dote on, or provide undue emphasis to any salacious or shocking elements of the crime. We seek to tell human stories and explain how humans treat each other (even when badly) with sensitivity and decorum, not to indulge the prurient.

WGLT takes care in its coverage to avoid creating or confirming inaccurate stereotypes about public safety in certain parts of the community. For instance, aggregate coverage of crime may create a false impression because police enforcement patterns are not geographically uniform. In crime coverage, we strive to convey an accurate sense of the community in its entirety.

What we cover

WGLT reports on crimes that serve as an illustration of trends in the community, region, or state, and how those patterns relate to what goes on in Bloomington-Normal and central Illinois.

WGLT reports on crimes that shine light on a failure of government or community institutions. An example is a pattern of child abuse and neglect left undetected for a lengthy period by state and community child services workers which demonstrates holes in the system. Another example would be when an institution fails to detect or promptly deal with a sexual predator who is an employee and or in a position of authority over children.

WGLT reports crimes involving elected or appointed public officials if the allegations or conduct affect the public interest, is a violation of the public trust, or is relevant to voter choices at the ballot box. These could include even non-felony allegations and crimes in some instances.

In addition to the above, WGLT covers:

  • Homicides
  • Fatal fires
  • Traffic incidents if...

    • Someone is killed
    • Involves an elected/public official (i.e. officer-involved, DUI/DWI)
  • Elected / public official’s arrest
  • Gun violence if...

    • Someone is killed or injured
    • Police shoot someone
    • A child is injured
    • Shots fired near a school, hospital, mall or other highly populated area that makes it a substantial public safety issue.
    • Pattern of shootings in the community that puts members of the public at risk.
  • Kidnappings
  • Truly unusual crime
  • Domestic violence involving serious or life-threatening injuries to children

When names are used

People arrested or charged with felonies should be named. If an arrestee/defendant is named, WGLT has an obligation to report on the resolution of their criminal case. See Courts.

WGLT does not name victims unless there's an extraordinary circumstance. Those would need to be discussed and approved on a case-by-case basis.


WGLT does not use mugshot photos except in rare cases, such as a manhunt involving an at-large suspect who is a risk to the public.

Mugshots add little to the public record. And they may have an outsized impact on the subject of the photo, long after a case has been adjudicated and is not publicly relevant.

We think it is ethical and responsible to generally avoid mugshots without harming our commitment to accurate journalism.


WGLT does not typically report on individual suicide cases and should not name the people who take their own lives, even in cases that do merit coverage because they reflect a societal pattern that WGLT believes is in the public interest to highlight. It is possible WGLT would name a suicide victim if there were absolutely no way to avoid it or if the person involved is a public figure and the suicide is important to understand that person’s public role. This exception should be a really high bar.


If WGLT names an arrestee/defendant, it has an obligation to report on the resolution to their criminal case. WGLT’s News Director (or designee) shall maintain a list of active cases involving named defendants that includes the frequency of checks on their current status. WGLT will then, at minimum, report on the resolution of their case (plea, verdict, dropped).

The most serious cases may merit additional coverage, up to and including trial coverage. The baseline coverage for trials would be opening statements, closing arguments, and verdict. During trials, ongoing communication with lawyers on both sides is important. They are usually willing to keep a respectful reporter informed of testimony worthy of intermittent coverage.

WGLT does not cover tedious procedural developments in pending cases. The exception may be a post-conviction case that has not seen even a status hearing in years. Motion filings should be monitored in high-profile cases to determine if attendance at the hearing is worthwhile. Final pretrial hearings should be attended to catch any last-minute plea deals and schedule changes.


Initial coverage of crime almost always relies on police or prosecutors as sources. They are the first responders and those who make decisions whether to charge someone with a crime. That’s the nature of the beast.

In those cases that do merit follow-up coverage, however, WGLT should find balance by seeking defense attorneys and non-institutional context.


WGLT considers coverage if a lawsuit involves a major employer, a well-known person in the community, or a government body. The threshold to cover is quite high.

Most lawsuits are settled, so coverage should include a resolution to the case, something that requires a reporter to keep the case on their radar.

Lawsuits against government bodies will not ALWAYS merit coverage and will be determined on a case-by-case basis. Civil rights cases against county and state agencies are worth following if they state a reasonable claim that can be explored further with a plaintiff’s lawyer.

Story Removal / Takedown Requests

Many chapters of a person’s life do not remain relevant or important for the public to know and that undue harm can come to a person’s life or reputation if digital records persist long after they lose public relevance. WGLT recognizes this as a general truth.

The exercise of such a right encompassed more broadly by the right to privacy, however, conflicts with our mission to provide journalism of record to our communities, region, and state. A putative "Right to be Forgotten" may also come in conflict with the right to freedom of expression.

The following policies are attempts to reflect that pre-internet ethos and find some balance between the duty WGLT has to inform the public and the harm it might do an individual later.

Submit your takedown or change request.

As a matter of editorial policy, takedown requests will be rarely granted. A three-person panel consisting of the Content Director and the news Directors of WGLT and Peoria-based NPR member station WCBU will vet all such requests. If available, the reporter on the story in question will also be consulted. If the person making the request alleges our work is inaccurate, the corrections and clarification policy will come into play. There may also be situations in which fairness requires an update or follow-up coverage, as when criminal charges are dismissed without further prosecution, for instance.

We review takedown requests if the person involved is under threat of physical harm because of the existence of the material. In most cases, content fit for removal must be verifiably inaccurate, potentially libelous, in contravention of a publication ban or other legal consideration.

Here’s what we typically do not consider. We won’t remove names or articles in the case of serious violent crimes, sexually-based crimes or crimes against children. We also won’t remove names or stories in cases of public corruption or, at our discretion, in cases where people hold a position of public trust, such as doctors, police officers and educators.

This policy still leaves potential inequities. Not everyone has the knowledge, resources, or persuasive ability to make a case that a story should be taken down from our websites. Others may encounter language barriers, lack technological understanding or access, or not possess the agency to even know how to contact our newsrooms. Beyond not knowing how to ask, they may not even realize that they can. This doesn’t imply a conscious bias when newsrooms decide whether to grant a request but it is worth acknowledging.