Belfast Telegraph

Every picture tells a story ... but this one was five years old

By Paul Connolly

Violence at, or connected to, sporting occasions used to be a bit of a fact of life. Those days, thankfully, are long behind us. But incidents do occasionally occur. And when they do, it's right that they are in the news.

The other side of the coin, of course, is that the media has a duty to ensure its reporting of the incident is accurate.

Unfortunately, the Belfast Telegraph fell short of this goal in a report on March 22.

The story concerned an outbreak of violence following a match between Linfield and Derry City at the Brandywell on March 20.

There were reports of attacks on homes near the Brandywell by travelling fans, and also reports that the windows of a bus carrying Linfield fans home from the game were smashed in retaliation.

It was pretty serious stuff and, rightly, investigations are under way.

As usual with these matters, accusations flew about why it started and who was to blame.

The origins of the violence, frankly, are nothing to do with me.

But the way this newspaper reported it is.

A dramatic image was used of a smashed bus window and a young girl looking very upset.

So dramatic, in fact, that reference was made to the image in the opening paragraph of the story.

The problem was that photograph was some five years old.

It was what is known in the trade as a library or archive image.

It had been included in a batch of 'live' pictures by a photographic agency as a reminder that there had been a previous incident.

Somehow this archive shot appeared in the Belfast Telegraph as an image from the night of the match.

What went wrong? Well, the paper's production and picture desk processes should obviously have noticed that the image was an archive because the year was contained in the appropriate place on the file.

I also think the historical nature of the image could have been made clearer by the agency which transmitted it to us, so I've asked the Picture Editor to see if he can come up with suggestions to ensure no repeat of this error.

True to editorial policy, the paper did print a statement in its Clarifications and Corrections column once the mistake was brought to our attention.

Sincere apologies are offered to all readers who were misled by our reporting.

Meanwhile, thanks to Helen Cusack for pointing out a mistaken reference in a story to putting the clock back recently, rather than forward. Wonder did the author sleep in that morning?

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