About five years ago, a local newspaper in southwest England, the Dorset Echo, published a photo of a fatal car crash. At the time, the daughter of the car crash victim, Lucy Wyman, complained the photo was upsetting.
But despite that complaint, just last fall, the Newsquest-owned newspaper published the photo again — this time to illustrate an article about a local county committee discussion of lowering the speed limit on a road.
Wyman complained to the UK press regulator the Independent Press Standards Organisation, arguing it was an “intrusion into grief or shock” for the newspaper to publish the photo again, and noted that her father’s car accident wasn’t because of “dangerous driving.” (A 2013 article on the Dorset Echo‘s website about his death explains he “is believed to have collapsed while driving.”) IPSO recently resolved the complaint.
So what went wrong? The Dorset Echo apologized to Wyman, IPSO reported, explaining that the staffer who chose the photo didn’t know about the previous complaint because he was new. Further, the Echo deleted the picture and flagged it as not for publication moving forward.
The Echo also agreed to publish a page 5 apology to Wyman, which reads:
“ON October 20 this year the Dorset Echo published a story headlined ‘Speed reductions for roads near Dorchester and Weymouth have been recommended for approval’. The picture used to illustrate the article was of an incident that took place on Osmington Hill in 2013. The driver had suffered a medical episode at the wheel and the incident was in no way related to speeding. We would like to apologise unreservedly to the family involved for the obvious distress that the use of this picture caused. And we acknowledge the distress that pictures of road accidents can cause to the families of those affected.”
Wyman complained about the Echo‘s coverage of car accidents in 2015 as well, when she published an open letter to the Echo on the Dorset Eye. Wyman’s open letter listed numerous examples of the Echo‘s coverage of graphic car accidents. “While I appreciate there is a certain public interest in featuring these stories, I question the decency of featuring photographs of wreckage, where people have been injured or killed,” Wyman wrote. “The impact such graphic images have on family, friends, neighbours and work colleagues is immense.”
In her open letter, Wyman reminded readers that the newspaper had previously published on its front page “the wreckage of my father’s car” and “the devastation my family and friends felt for this intrusion was immense.”
“I simply cannot put into words how overwhelmingly upset we were at having this image in the public domain,” she continued, calling for the paper to review its practices. “My father would never have wished his six-year-old grandson to see the remains of his car, but the photo was everywhere to be seen in local shops and supermarkets. We couldn’t avoid seeing it and it’s not an image you can easily forget especially as the articles are featured on the Internet for many years.”
iMediaEthics tweeted and messaged Wyman via Facebook, but her account isn’t active.