The Metro Spirit has a long history of crying foul when it comes to the Jail Report.
In September 2011, the Spirit even devoted a feature story to the mug shot paper owned and operated by former Chronicle crime writer Greg Rickabaugh.
In the article, Rickabaugh insisted that the paper was providing a community service, even if some of the people displayed on the pages were innocent. If there was any implication of guilt associated with the mug shots, which represent an arrest and not a conviction, that wasn’t his fault.
In fact, he said, his paper was actually a benefit to law enforcement.
“I’m not going to say that our sole purpose is crime fighting, because I do need something to pay the bills, but my ultimate goal is to provide a resource for law enforcement and the public,” he said. “As far as how I see myself, I really see myself as showing the people the information they want to know.”
In defending his paper, which many call exploitive and unethical, Rickabaugh has always claimed the high road, trumpeting the fact that everyone is treated the same, from junkie to CEO. It doesn’t matter who you are, he proclaims. If you get arrested, your face is going to make the paper.
He doesn’t like privilege, he’ll tell you. Never has. In fact, he enjoys telling the story of how he proudly turned down $20,000 from a man who didn’t want his picture to run in the paper and then how he fought off the guy’s attempts to buy up all the papers around his place of business.
The mug shot business is all about staying true to your values, it seems, and never backing down.
All of which makes his handling of former WGAC independent on air personality Scott Hudson’s arrest over the Fourth of July for operating a vessel under the influence and not wearing a personal floatation device so puzzling.
Rickabaugh didn’t try to cover it up, but he did allow Hudson to submit an explanation of his side of the events, which is the ultimate privilege.
“Now, after lunch I had sat and sipped on a couple of beers while designing the site, but I was in no way intoxicated,” is in part how Hudson described the events leading up to his arrest.
Can you imagine how thick the paper would be if Rickabaugh did that with everyone who appeared in the paper?
Professional courtesy? Hardly. Hudson’s first-person reporting and his knack for inserting himself into the story doesn’t make him a reporter any more than singing in the shower makes you a recording artist.
In a paper that gives no opportunity for follow up, Rickabaugh allowed Hudson to have the last word, and the hypocrisy of it all is hard to fathom.
The hypocrisy isn’t confined to Rickabaugh, however. Though enjoying that privilege now, Hudson actually came close to calling Rickabaugh out in 2013 when a mug shot of attorney Jenna Matson failed to run in the paper… twice.
“Having two serious charges facing the same individual fail to make the newspaper is pretty much an outrageous coincidence… if it is a coincidence,” Hudson reported on the radio.
Hudson also spent a considerable amount of time on his blog ruminating about the power of a public figure to control a news story, in this case Joe Neal, Jr. Ultimately he concluded that social media and the internet were powerful tools to keep things from being swept under the rug, and after much consideration, he was willing to give the Jail Report a favorable nod.
“For a while I struggled with whether the Jail Report was a public service or a sensationalistic tool to make money,” he wrote back in 2013. “After speaking with publisher Greg Rickabaugh at length, I have come to the conclusion that while some charges that accompany mug shots under the heading ‘disorderly conduct’ can mean anything (ie. spitting on the sidewalk) that the Jail Report is indeed a public service.”
Being charged with operating a vessel under the influence and not having a personal floatation device is hardly the same as a disorderly conduct, but Hudson’s quick and extremely self-serving explanation of what happened seems to imply that it’s only a public service when it’s someone else’s photo is in the paper.
It seems like Hudson, in trying to paraphrase the comedian George Carlin in his blog, summed it all up by saying “people engage in behavior that even though they are fully aware will destroy them if they are caught, they simply bank on not being caught.”