The NBC affiliate in Pittsburgh today is running a “Fugitive Take Down” day in cooperation with the Allegheny County Sheriff’s office. It’s coupled with a Twitter campaign that uses the hashtag #TakeDownDay to accompany photos of the fugitives, the crime they have been accused of, and their last known location.
I was bothered by this when I first saw it in the early morning hours before I went to bed. I’m bothered even more by it now. The violent imagery associated with the words “take down” seem over the top for any media associate to advocate. While the message only encourages audience members to report tips by phone or online form, the words “take down” seem to advocate actions. While it’s commonplace for organizations to feature fugitives, ask the public to be on the lookout for someone a law enforcement agency wants to get off the streets, or call with tips about a specific crime, these incidents are an immediate public safety issue that fills part of the news media’s mission in society by providing timely and specific information. But, this hashtag, the posting of some fugitives’ faces with the words “captured over them,” and asking the public to participate in a day long event that doesn’t provide context to each situation, and posting videos of arrests almost like a game (there is a computer game with the same name), feels wrong and irresponsible.
Capturing fugitives is not a game, and using words associated with violent imagery to get the public involved is not OK.