Suspected gunman Jared Lee Loughner looks pretty crazy in his mug shot, and media across the nation tended to play that big. Instead of the benumbed, glazed-over look of the typical cop shop portrait, Loughner's leering face stunned reporters. "Face of Evil" was the headline accompanying the front-page New York Daily News shot, with the New York Post screaming: "Mad Eyes of a Killer." Both papers altered the shot, turning the background black to highlight the face. "We felt his leering grin and wild eyes revealed something of his mental state," Post editor Col Allen told the Washington Post. "The image conveyed a sense of madness."
Even the Washington Post conceded the mug shot "suggested defiance, unapologetic glee, indifference to consequence and possible derangement." But the paper, like some others, including the Arizona press, highlighted scenes of the shooting or photos of vigils and used the mug shot as a secondary image. The Washington Post's focus on a local vigil "showed the impact of this crime on Capitol Hill, where some of the victims had worked," said editor Marcus Brauchli. "Our community is one of the communities hard hit by this. The photo reflected that."