Monday, July 18, 2011

WUSA | This illustrated a baby's bathtub drowning

Anonymous@9:27 a.m. summed it up in three words: "Worst. Graphic. Ever."

For nearly two weeks, WUSA-TV used the following image with a story about an 11-month-old Maryland girl's apparent drowning death in a bathtub. (Yes: Those are three tiny bubbles floating above the tub.)

Without explanation, the Washington TV station substituted another illustration not long after widely read mock-the-news website Fark posted a link, inviting readers to comment. And they did: The post has now attracted 134 comments.

Former Des Moines Register designer Charles Apple called it an offensive use of stock art: "This travesty proves — more than my words ever could — why using stock art is such a bad idea for a story like this."

How did this happen? A March 2009 resignation offers a clue: Assignment desk editor Alan Henney wrote an "I quit" memo that became the talk of Gannett Blog. "The consultants and out-of-touch corporate management," he said, "have ruined the newscasts with repetitive Web clutter, endless sidebar packages, and their preoccupation with the Internet."

Henney continued: "We are doing less news gathering these days and more information posting. Somebody needs to be driving the news machine at all times, actively pursuing news leads. We’ve lost our focus."

Earlier: Union deal paves way to hire "mojos."

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