They say print journalism is dying, but at least one national publication has recently decided to launch a Twin Cities edition. Of course, from an economic standpoint you might call Busted a counter-cyclical publication: the worse the economy gets, the more people might be tempted into lives of crime, producing more free content for the dollar-an-issue tabloid. Oh, didn’t I mention? Busted publishes mug shots. Lots and lots of mug shots.
I couldn’t quite believe it when I encountered the May issue in the SuperAmerica at Broadway and University in Northeast Minneapolis, so I paid my dollar for the privilege of opening the seal that prevents casual browsers from perusing the pages of Busted. It immediately occurred to me to write a story about the publication, but a little Googling revealed that journalists at local media outlets across the country have had the same idea. Some of the best detective work was done by Sacramento blogger Luke McReynolds, who discovered that Busted‘s unnamed owner is one Dan Oakley (he lists the publication on his LinkedIn profile) and that publisher Semi Valley Sound LLC, which is nominally based in Florida, “is incorporated in Delaware, America’s corporate tax haven.”
Busted sells advertising, but at least by the May issue (“Volume 2”), there were no metro area takers. So what you get is page after page of mug shots from Hennepin, Ramsey, Anoka, and Dakota counties, each one listing the subject’s name and alleged offense. Special features include a foldout showcasing drunk drivers, a box spotlighting four oddly festive-looking faces, a page of active fugitives, and a back-cover “Beauty vs. Beast” page featuring hot female arrestees (DUI, marijuana possession) and some ugly male mugs (criminal sexual conduct, malicious punishment of a child). There are a couple of goofy-criminal stories (a Lake County woman was cited with contempt of court for wearing a t-shirt reading, “I Have the Pussy, So I Make the Rules”) and “Sweet Spot,” a column by staff writer Joseph Sweet. (“Your life, even if it isn’t one-hundred percent peaches and cream, is freaking awesome.” Why? Because you’re protected by the First Amendment.)
A Busted debate could be had, but I’ll leave that to others. The Pro side would tout Busted‘s crime-deterring potential and note that the vast majority of people featured in its pages brought public-domain infamy upon themselves by engaging in assault, robbery, and other serious crimes. (The wrongdoing of one alleged offender is vaguely designated “city ordinance.” Was he caught in St. Paul with a sugar glider?) The Con side would note that it’s unseemly—or, in the words of one of McReynolds’s readers, outright “evil”—to profit by flaunting the misfortunes of others. The reader forwarded her criticism to Busted‘s Gmail account, eliciting the reply, “See you in hell you miserable hippocrate!”
It’s certainly sobering to flip through the pages upon pages of miserable faces trapped in the newsprint stocks. Given that Busted is available in Northeast, we might hope it will be happened upon by an artist who will use its public-domain editorial content in a manner that’s designed to inspire something beyond—in the words of the Busted Web site—”morbid curiosity.”