The Killing of a Photo

On Monday, the Associated Press picked up and transmitted a photo that was allegedly of victims of the Washington Navy Yard shootings. Shortly thereafter, unable to confirm that the images were related, they sent a kill order advising members and subscribers to not use the images.

Late on Tuesday, the Poynter Institute’s Andrew Beaujon updated the story saying it appeared the photos were associated with the shooting.

I’m still not sure whether this photo is related or not. Why? It wasn’t made by a journalist. This is yet another reason why I hate the phrase “citizen journalist” – it’s not journalism, it’s reporting. There’s no context, there’s no verification.

I have no issues with citizen reporting – the more eyes and ears we have, the more information we can collect. But information is not knowledge and reporting is not journalism.

I applaud the AP for backing off on the image – once they knew, they did something. I just wish they had checked before falling down the rathole of being first, not being right. No one remembers you if you were first, but they do remember if you were wrong.

Mark E. Johnson

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