The Mirror's photo of a crying child isn't what it seems, but that doesn't make it a hoax

The paper used the tears of an American girl to sell its story on child hunger - so what?

Share

Not for the first time, the Daily Mirror finds itself accused of using a misleading image on the front page of its newspaper today. An arresting picture of a distressed child is used to highlight a report on poverty in Britain in 2014. The written report is itself a fine example of the paper’s long tradition of campaigning for the socially disadvantaged.

But the noble intention of highlighting the fact that 330,000 food parcels have been distributed to hungry children this year has been undermined as the heart-rending photograph of a young girl with a crumpled face was not what it seemed.

The bawling infant is an American called Anne who appeared in pictures shared on the popular photography site Flickr in 2009. The woman who uploaded the images, Lauren Rosenbaum, posted a touching story in which she explained that the tears were the result of a lost earthworm which Anne had found in the park and nicknamed “Flower”. In other lovingly-taken photographs, Anne is shown to living an apparently happy, almost enchanted life.

The loss of “Flower” the earthworm in an American park in 2009 is hardly the picture to illustrate a front page story that reads: “Britain 2014. We’re the sixth largest economy in the world. We have more millionaires than ever before…So why have we handed out ONE MILLION food parcels? And new figures reveal 330,000 went to hungry children…shock report pages 4&5”.

I have some sympathy with the Mirror. The poverty issue is a real one – and no doubt there were genuine tears this morning from kids pained with hunger in contemporary Britain. But trying to take a picture of a crying hungry child with the consent of parents who might feel in some way responsible for that hunger is an assignment that would challenge any news photographer. It’s the sort of picture that might result from the kind of long embedded investigation that the media rarely has the resources for these days.

The Mirror decided to use an emotive generic picture of a crying child. The paper would have understood that its worthy report would have lacked impact without illustration to pull on the heart strings of its readers. So it obtained the image of Anne from the respected global picture agency Getty which, with the permission of the girl’s parents, offered it as part of its vast library as a stock representation of a crying child.

The paper’s logic in using a stock picture was sound enough. Had the shot been of, say, “Rosie, 5, from Leeds” it might have won admiration from photo-journalists but the Mirror would almost certainly have drawn criticism for exploiting a real British child and worsening their plight by putting them on the front page of a paper.

The paper didn’t caption the picture and in days gone by, before Google and Flickr, Anne would probably never have been identified.

But the revelation of the photo’s genesis is uncomfortable for the Mirror because it has a track record in using front page pictures of questionable provenance. Only this month it had to apologise to a software developer when it published a picture of him holding a giant rat at his home in London and claimed the shot depicted a pest controller in Liverpool.

A decade ago, it infamously splashed faked pictures of British soldiers abusing an Iraqi captive in the back of an Army lorry. The pictures were later revealed to have been taken not in Iraq but in Preston as part of a “calculated and malicious hoax” which eventually led to the sacking of then Mirror editor Piers Morgan.

The dissemination on social media of the history of this latest Mirror front page picture won’t help the paper’s future ability to have impact on the news-stand. But the Mirror’s intentions here were good – and there is no case for suggesting that the current editor Lloyd Embley should suffer the same fate as Piers.

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Project Implementation Executive

£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

When a small amount of desk space means the world

Rebecca Armstrong
It’s all in the detail; Ed Miliband with ‘Britain Can Be Better’ (AFP/Getty)  

General Election 2015: Parties must remember the 50-plus vote

Stefano Hatfield
NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own