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Accurately depicting events

Image courtesy of Seema Krishnakumar and released under Creative Commons

Image courtesy of Seema Krishnakumar and released under Creative Commons

Scenario and questions

You have been sent to cover an incident at a border crossing following reports that a large group of asylum seekers is trying to gain entry to a neighbouring country.

It's reported that shots have been fired and some people have been killed.

You arrive and see a child sitting by the roadside crying. You think it's been abandoned and take a picture. It's a wonderful shot. 

You call your news editor and prepare to send the image back to the newsroom. Everyone is excited; pictures like this win awards.

As soon as you have sent the picture, the child's mother appears and picks the child up. It stops crying. It seems the child's grief was caused, mainly, by being separated from its mother. Once it was picked up it seemed to be happy - despite the chaos surrounding it.

The mother shouts at you for taking a photograph and wanders off into the crowd with her child.

What do you do?

a) pretend the incident with the mother never happened. You have already alerted the news desk. They want to use the image. The mother will probably never know and is unlikely to take action, and you could end up winning a journalism award for the picture.

b) talk to your news editor, explain the situation but recommend that the image is used anyway because, although it's not accurate, it does show the misery and suffering at the border crossing.

c) look for another shot more representative of the story even though it may be less powerful.

Click here for a training module that might help you reach a conclusion and click here for a suggested course of action.

David BrewerThe author of this piece, David Brewer, is a journalist and media strategy consultant who set up and runs Media Helping Media. He delivers journalism training and media consultancy services worldwide via Media Ideas. He also runs a media mentoring service.

This site has been given permission to use the BBC's Editorial Guidelines as part of these short modules which have been adapted and updated to reflect international, regional and cultural variation.



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