The Toronto Star removed a stock photo from an article about coronavirus after one of the people pictured complained.
Why? The photo had nothing to do with the story or the pandemic and was, in fact, from years ago.
Toronto Star public editor Kathy English discussed the issue in a recent public editor column which cautioned the use of stock images.
Noting the image had no caption indicating it was an old file photo, English agreed the photo was used “entirely out of context” with the coronavirus story. “Selecting and publishing this image from the Star’s photo archive files to generically illustrate this week’s big news story seems to me unfair to these clearly identifiable — but unnamed — women,” English wrote.
She raised questions about the use of file photos years later and with different context and suggested: “making clear to readers when an image is a ‘file photo’ and providing the fullest context of the circumstances and time of that image being taken is the fair and accurate thing to do.”
In addition to commenting that the issue highlighted the need for careful use of stock photos, English called out a Star Twitter account post which used a photo of an Asian woman wearing a mask with a story about the delay of the new James Bond movie. English explained:
“This is not in line with the best practices for journalists suggested this week by the Asian American Journalists Association and the photo was replaced. ‘We urge media to be mindful of photos, context and word choice surrounding #coronavirus. We warn against usage of images of people wearing face masks without proper context,’ the AAJA states.”