Globe public editor: The art of the flu vaccine

By Sylvia Stead, public editor of The Globe and Mail

By Sylvia Stead, public editor of The Globe and Mail

“You did it again!” a reader wrote this week. “What’s with the second photo of a crying baby in a story about flu vaccines in less than a week? How about a photo of a stoic adult, or of a child getting the vaccine via nasal spray? No wonder parents can be hesitant.”

The photo was used to illustrate an article explaining that medical professionals are being urged to take the time to explain the scientific facts beyond the value of vaccines and the dangers of not inoculating children. The photo from Oct. 21 showed a crying infant, while the earlier one used Oct. 17 showed a wailing toddler.

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News photos are used for a variety of reasons. They are real, fair and accurate depictions of news events. They are used to not only show the event, but also to draw the reader’s eye to the article. And the truth is a cute baby is more appealing than a stoic adult as the reader above suggests.

News photos must be accurate. The Globe’s Code of Ethics says that news photographers “are journalists who use cameras to report on events and stories in the news. Their job is to inform and engage with readers honestly, accurate and in a clear and compelling manner.”

That photo of the unhappy baby was both real and representative of what happens when babies are poked with any needle. Medical research suggests you can distract a baby with sugar water or breastfeeding to avoid the tears, but otherwise, they usually cry.

But the question remains from the reader, should other photos be shown as well to illustrate the story?

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