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Public Safety Reporting Policy

WCBU looks at crime not in isolation, but in the wider context of socio-economic factors that offer solutions, not just problems or process.

Guiding principles

Newsroom resources are finite. We must choose only the most important and significant incidents and cases to bring to higher public notice.

Coverage decisions are guided by who is impacted. People personally affected will often weigh heavier than property crimes. There's also the question of the impact of the crime in question. A vacant house fire or an intentionally set garage fire may not rise to the level of newsworthiness for WCBU, but a string of several such fires suggesting a pattern may.

We should also look at crime not in isolation, but in the wider context of socio-economic factors that offer solutions, not just problems or process.

What we cover

WCBU covers:

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

    • Someone is killed
    • Involves an elected/public official (i.e. officer-involved, DUI/DWI)
  • Non-fatal shootings if...

    • Police shoot someone
    • A child 12 or under is injured
    • 3 or more people are shot
    • Shots fired near a school, hospital, mall or other highly populated area that makes it a substantial public safety issue.
  • Elected / public official’s arrest
  • Kidnappings
  • Truly unusual crime
  • Domestic violence involving serious or life-threatening injuries to children

Misdemeanors do not merit coverage unless it's a public figure involved or there is another extraordinary factor at play.

When names are used

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

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


WCBU 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.


WCBU will maintain a list of City of Peoria homicides, updated throughout the year, containing the victim’s name(s), any arrests, location, and other relevant information. This information will be used to maintain an interactive map that is used whenever a new homicide occurs.

The map may provide helpful geographic bearings. But the map must also not reinforce negative, misleading stereotypes about certain neighborhoods. Additional context, such as multiple years of data and socioeconomic factors may add additional needed context to gain a better understanding of the factors at play, beyond raw data.

To address the above, WCBU will also maintain a dedicated webpage that includes all our coverage related to violence in Peoria and links to various anti-violence intervention resources. News stories about homicides will link to this dedicated webpage.


WCBU does not cover suicides, except in an extreme circumstance to be decided on a case-by-case basis. We do not report on bridge jumpers, of which there are several a year. The wider trends of increasing/decreasing suicides and behavioral health resources in the area and their efficacy are newsworthy, but singling out families by focusing on individual instances of people taking their own lives does not necessarily serve this goal or provide the required sensitivity.


If WCBU names an arrestee/defendant, it has an obligation to report on the resolution to their criminal case. WCBU’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. WCBU 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.


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, WCBU should find balance by seeking defense attorneys and non-institutional context.


WCBU 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. WCBU 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 WCBU 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 WCBU and Bloomington-Normal NPR member station WGLT 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; it can simply be a numbers game.