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The Nairobi Star's public editor Karen Rothmyer wrote about the newspaper's recent photo error. (Credit: Nairobi Star, screenshot)

The Nairobi Star issued a correction for posting a fake photo with its coverage of a June 10 helicopter crash, the newspaper’s public editor Karen Rothmyer wrote.

The fake photo, published June 11, came from a stock photo website, Rothmyer explained, and the newspaper was heavily criticized for the error. The correction doesn’t appear to be online, but Rothmyer told iMediaEthics by e-mail that she’s looking into it and provided a copy of the correction.  The correction reads:

“Yesterday the Star was duped into using an Internet photo of a helicopter crashing in its story ‘Ministers Die in Horror Crash’. A reader called and said he had taken the photo of a chopper emitting smoke as he returned from Namanga.  The photo was in fact of a Robinson R44 helicopter in Europe and not the AS350 Eurocopter used by the police in Kenya.  We apologise for this error to all concerned.”

Also, the error prompted a complaint to Kenya’s Media Council. Rothmyer wrote:  “the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Information lodged a complaint against the Star at the Media Council, claiming that the photo was misleading and undermined police investigations into the crash.” However, Rothmyer told iMediaEthics by e-mail that the status of the complaint is unknown right now because the Permanent Secretary, who filed the complaint, told the newspaper Rothmyer’s column was a good effort in “self-policing.” She explained to iMediaEthics:

“The PS called the paper’s Managing Director, William Pike, the day after my column ran to congratulate the paper for its leadership in self-policing and indicated (according to the MD) that as far as he was concerned, the matter was now an end but he wasn’t sure whether or not the Complaints Commission would feel the same.”

In Rothmyer’s column, she explained where the photo came from and that the incident was a verification failure.  Moving forward, she advised the newspaper:

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“No matter how well-regarded the source of a story or a photo, the rule is: check it out.”

The photo made it to the front page after the newspaper’s political editor Paul Ilado said he got it from “a friend … not that close to me” and  then Ilado sent it to the newspaper’s editor and photo editor.  Both Ilado and photo editor Joseph Kariuki told Rothmyer they didn’t verify the photo was legitimate.

Rothmyer noted this is the second time this year the newspaper fell for a fake photo and that yet again, the newspaper is excusing its error due to “lack of time and an assumption that the person supplying the news wouldn’t lie.”

Plus, Rothmyer wrote she and the newspaper’s website administrator Dickens Olewe “had an email conversation” the day before publication about the fake photo being circulated, “But neither of us knew that it was being considered for publication.”

In the earlier incident, as we wrote, Rothmyer explained that the newspaper ran a 2009 photo and story as news January 12, 2012.  The old news reported on a “Kenyan supposedly being stoned to death by al Shabaab members in Somalia.”  The old news came from Kenya military spokesperson Major Emmanuel Chichir’s Twitter account. Read our story on that incident here.

We have written to the Media Council asking for more information about the status of the complaint and will update with any response.

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Nairobi Star Ran Wrong Photo with June Helicopter Coverage, Corrects

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