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Front page image used by UK Daily Mirror. (Credit: Via PressGazette)

The UK Daily Mirror used a dramatic stock photo of a U.S. girl without saying so to illustrate a report on UK poverty this week.

The April 16 Mirror story was titled, “Britain’s hunger crisis: One MILLION food parcels handed out despite UK having sixth richest economy.” The photo was not published online with the story when iMediaEthics viewed it at 4:45 PM EST.

See above the tablet version of the April 16 Mirror front page. (credit: The Mirror, screenshot)

The photo in question, published on the Mirror‘s front page, was uploaded in Flickr in 2009 by Lauren Rosenbaum and sold to Getty Images. Press Gazette noted that the Flickr caption reveals that the girl pictured was not upset about being impoverished, but crying over an earthworm she wanted to bring home from the park but “scootched away.”

Blogger Dan Barker is credited as one of the first to raise questions about the photo. Specifically, Barker asked:

  1. “Does it matter that the photo is not really a starving child?
  2. “Does it matter that the photo wasn’t even taken in the UK?
  3. “Is there an ethical issue in buying a stock photo of a child – not in poverty – and using it to illustrate poverty?
  4. “Does it matter that the headline begins “Britain, 2014″, but the photo is actually “USA, 2009″?”

iMediaEthics says yes to all four questions.

Despite concerns about the photo, the Guardian‘s Roy Greenslade quoted Mirror editor-in-chief Lloyd Embley as defending the use of the stock photo as “illustrative.” Embley said:

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“It’s a picture of a crying child made available to Getty for them to use and distribute through their library, which we used for illustrative purposes. Imagine the stink if we’d used a pic of an actual child who had received food parcels.”

The Independent seemingly agreed with Embley’s concern, pointing out that, had the Mirror actually used a real British child in the photo, the Mirror may have still faced criticism.

“The paper’s logic in using a stock picture was sound enough. Had the shot been of, say, “Rosie, 5, from Leeds” it might have won admiration from photo-journalists but the Mirror would almost certainly have drawn criticism for exploiting a real British child and worsening their plight by putting them on the front page of a paper.”

Meanwhile the Independent noted that the “poverty issue” in the UK “is a real one” and that getting consent for a current UK child in poverty might be tricky.

iMediaEthics has written to the Mirror for comment. We didn’t see any contact information listed for the original photographer. We’ll update with any additional information.

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UK Mirror Uses Stock photo of U.S. Child for UK poverty story

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