Your View: KOMU 8 responds to comments on archive photo use

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COLUMBIA -  As a broadcast station, visual representation of stories is an important part of coverage at KOMU 8 News. When viewers expressed concern with a web story photo we posted on August 27th, commenting on Facebook that the photo inaccurately represented the story, we decided to delve into what lead to the mistake.

Late at night on Friday, August 26th, a boat traveling downstream at the Lake of the Ozarks became airborne, overturned and killed the two passengers on board.

Two hours after posting the story on our Facebook page on Saturday, August 27th, viewers began to point out the photo accompanying the web story was of a boat that was on fire instead of the actual overturned boat. The web story photo was in fact just an archive photo.

The first viewer to point out the mistake via Facebook was John Fox.

"This is the actual photo of the boat involved in the accident, if you want the actual story go to the offshore Lake of the Ozarks page," Fox wrote with an accompanying photo of the actual overturned boat.

Another viewer, James Carr, soon commented after on KOMU's use of archive photos.

"An accident happened last night but we have no photo. 'Quick! Grab a photo of a boat accident from the archives and slap it on the page!'" Carr wrote.

Following the backlash on Facebook, KOMU 8 corrected the photo.

KOMU 8's Interactive Director, Annie Hammock, said archive photos can be useful when reporters and digital producers want to get a story online, but they need to be chosen with care.

"We talk at the beginning of their (students) training about choosing generic photos or archive photos to go with stories, and because we don't always have photos to go with a specific story, and it takes a lot careful thought into choosing that. Unfortunately in this case it was just an error in judgment, but they are given guidelines and in this case it just wasn't followed," Hammock said.

Professor Sandy Davidson with the University of Missouri School of Journalism said in such situations newsrooms need to be quick in responding to the error.

"In a situation like this, when somebody calls in, and says you've go the wrong photo, you say 'thank you for letting us know, we will change it,' you change it immediately and then your learn from that mistake, and you try not to commit it again," said Davidson.

What do you think of KOMU 8's use of archive photos?

We want to hear from you. Let us know on our Facebook, Twitter or Google Plus. Then watch KOMU 8 News at Six on Friday for your view of the news.