WRDW Goes “Behind the Scenes” of The Jail Report
This week, WRDW-TV Anchor Meredith Anderson took her viewers behind the scenes of The Jail Report to look at the fascination behind this popular crime publication in the Augusta-Aiken area.
Viewers were treated to a lengthy interview with Publisher Greg Rickabaugh, comments from delivery driver Pat Niman and reaction from readers who love and hate the edgy newspaper.
Below is a transcript of the story and a link to the video:
VIDEO: Click here
AUGUSTA—They say crime doesn’t pay, but for one man it sure does. That’s because every week, he sells it, and thousands and thousands of you buy it.
“The Jail Report” is a paper of mug shots. In it, you can find the faces of your neighbors. Maybe your coworkers. Your ex. Maybe they went to high school with you or go to your church, and they hope you never see it.
Greg Rickabaugh hopes you do. He is the face behind all the faces in the “Jail Report.”
“People ask me, where are you located? They think like the Chronicle, they can come and buy a copy. No. I do this out of my house,” says Greg. We caught up with him on a nice day outside Metro in downtown Augusta. His office is wherever his laptop is. “There was a vacation I took to Myrtle Beach, and I put that week’s paper together vacationing on the beach.”
But a trip to jail? That’s no vacation for any of the people in the “Jail Report” every week. Still, some don’t seem to mind. Every week, Greg prints mug shots where people are smiling. “Some of these people look like they’re posing for a high school yearbook photo or a Glamour Shots photo even,” Greg laughs.
He admits these mug shots can be entertaining, but that’s not why he prints the paper. “I wouldn’t tell this to everybody, but I have a tattoo of Batman on my arm, so I think I’m a crime-fighter and all that.”
Even though all these mug shots are public record, meaning anyone could get them, printing them in a paper for all to see makes them even more public. Most of these arrests, like one for trespassing, might never air on News 12 or show up in another paper, but every week you see them here. Greg hopes that exposure will make you think twice before getting arrested yourself. “When the public knows, I think it changes people’s actions.”
And the public wants to know. We couldn’t even interview Greg without someone asking him for a copy, and when we went in search of readers, everyone asked to see my copy. They wanted to see if they knew anyone facing charges. We even met someone who has been printed in the paper. “I’ve actually been in the “Jail Report,”"
said Jordan Christensen. He wasn’t happy about it. “I find it implorable (sic) that someone would capitalize on your moment of weakness.”
One of Greg’s few employees, and he only has about a dozen, begs to differ. Pat Niman says she’s heard some sob stories. “I try to tell them, the paper doesn’t ruin their life. Their actions caused their problems. Not the paper.”
Pat’s one of Greg’s delivery drivers, and delivery day starts early. She loads up her van before the sun comes up, and once on the road, she has fifty stops to make. “A lot of times, I pull up and there’s people that’s been waiting for a while for the paper. They’ll come in right behind me and get the paper.”
But it didn’t start out that way.The first ever “Jail Report” sold 3,000 copies. That was a year and a half ago. Now, Greg sells almost 20,000 a week, and he’s got more than 28,000 fans of his facebook of sorts on Facebook. Greg told us, “It’s very profitable. I feed my family with this.”
He’s also feeding your curiosity. What are your neighbors up to this week? You’ll have to wait until Wednesday to find out.
Something to point out: all of these mug shots represent arrests. They don’t mean you’re guilty. That’s for the courts to decide. Greg says if he prints your mug shot and you are found innocent or your charges are dropped, he’ll print that. He says people have already taken him up on that.
As for waiting until the suspects are convicted to post their mug shots, Greg says it’s the “Jail Report” and not the “Conviction Report.” During our interview, he brought up someone he personally knows who’s been arrested multiple times for DUI but always got out of it with a high-priced attorney. He says if he knew his mug shot was going to be printed, he might have changed his ways. In the “Jail Report,” he says everyone is equal. You can’t buy your way out of it, and people have tried. He’s been offered as much as $20,000 not to print a mug, but he said “no thanks”.
Greg also sent me a statement about why he doesn’t wait for the people he prints to go to trial. It is posted below.
We do not wait until a conviction because we are not a paper of convictions. We are a report on the jail, people who have had the law enforcement finger pointed at them for allegedly committing a crime.
We are a print edition for the mugshots that are already available online to the public on websites operated by the sheriff’s offices in Richmond, Aiken and Columbia counties.
To wait for convictions allows wealthy people to hide behind their expensive lawyers and connections. We personally know of a man who continued to get DUIs and was always able to weasel his way out of it with a high-priced attorney. If he knew that his business clients would know that he was a drunk driver who endangered their children’s lives every weekend, we believe he would have curtailed his actions.
If newspapers waited for convictions, you would have never known OJ Simpson was charged with murdering two people. He was found not guilty, so no one would have ever been told of his charges.
Laws give us the right to publish mugshots and charges. Again, we let people know the people are innocent until proven guilty. We cannot help how someone else takes this information and uses it. Unlike other papers, we offer people the chance to publish a not-guilty verdict. And a few people have taken us up on the offer.
Those are a few of our motivations.