In our zeal Saturday to get some content on KiowaCountySignal.com while we waited for stories from our local staff, I spent a good deal of time surfing blogs, YouTube and Flickr. I wanted to write a story reflecting how members of the distributed media were covering the event.
Among the blogs I found was one by Allan Detrich. I soon discovered Detrich was a storm chaser, former newspaper photographer, and had several photos from Greensburg immediately after the tornado hit. I forwarded the link to a member of my staff and asked that we get permission to use a photo or two.
Today, Editor and Publisher did a story about the great job the Greensburg staff has done on getting a web site up and getting stories online despite having its offices destroyed.
Well down in the story, writer Joe Strupp includes:
Among the photos posted is at least one by Allan Detrich, a former photographer for The Blade of Toledo, Ohio, who was fired several weeks ago after it was found he had altered numerous photos. Anderson said he was not aware of Detrich’s past problems, but said he believed Detrich had approached the Tribune with the photos, apparently at no charge. Easterday could not be reached for comment on Detrich.
The former Blade photographer, who is also an avid “storm chaser,” said he offered the images at no charge because “I didn’t want to make money on the hometown paper.” As for his past problems in Toledo, he declared in an e-mail, “I learned my lesson, and I am moving forward with my career with honesty and integrity.”
I actually first knew this was an issue because of this post, which takes GateHouse Media to task for not recognizing Detrich’s name.
I’m sorry, this one is my fault. I had not seen the coverage of Detrich’s doctored photos (I don’t think it made Romenesko, but if it did, I missed it).
If I had known about Detrich, would I have still have used the photos? I don’t know. It would be good for me to say, “of course not,” but that is 20-20 hindsight. As I think about it, I have no reason now to believe the photos are doctored.
Contrary to the implication of the E&P story, Detrich did not approach us. We contacted him. Everything about his web site indicated (in the realm of common sense) that he is who he says he is and does what he says he does. I would have to believe he was and is on the scene and the photos are real.
If you look at the links to our stories, you’ll see that the caption I wrote are carefully worded to note that these were non-staff contributions.
We didn’t pay for these photos.
It would be hard to believe that Detrich created a fiction in this case. There isn’t a terribly big self-promotion angle for him to play here. He had no idea at the time he posted his photos that we would call on him. He maybe has an angle to get back into professional journalism, but at the time, I’m not sure I would have seen his coverage as angle shooting. I think he is doing something he has an obvious passion for.
Am I justifying? I’m trying not to. Just explain. Just be honest.
Another aspect of this is: To me, I saw this as citizen contributed content. My approach to CitJ is to treat it as honest until proven otherwise. Using CitJ in MSM coverage is a high-wire act. You’re going to get burned some times. But to me, the benefits far outweigh the dangers. Again, note how I carefully worded the caption to give the source of the photos. Some, I know, would now argue: “See, don’t use CitJ.” To me, that’s not an option. Use it, but use it with caution, and note the source.
Meanwhile, we have our own news service staff on the ground in Greensburg now and we are posting their stuff with more to come. I haven’t seen it yet, but I hear it’s good. Check it out.