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Come to Dorset for the mountains, stay for the elk

During the Canford Heath fires in Dorset last month, Sky were quick to claim the scoop of getting the first pictures on air, all down to the modern miracle of citizen journalism. “Here are some pretty dramatic pictures sent in by a viewer”, boasted the anchor. Dramatic indeed. Not only did they show because they showed the blaze throughout the evergreen pines along the rugged mountains of Dorset, they also showed the elk which are indigenous to that area sheltering in a river.

Spotted anything yet ? Sky didn’t. And neither did the Guardian, who, forgetting anything as tiresome as copyright, screen-grabbed the image and ran in the next day under the apposite headline “Canford Heath has blazed before, but never like this”. Indeed.

So: red faces all round when it was remembered that Dorset is not renowned for rugged peaks, mountain pines or elks, and that the fairly well-known picture was actually taken in Montana six years previously.

“I can sympathise both with Sky and with the Guardian picture desk for running this picture in, so to speak, the heat of the moment” wrote the Guardian’s Omsbudsman Ian Mayes. Sympathise away, Ian, and ignore all the news editors, subs and picture desk people that didn’t bother to question an image that came from an anonymous source, pretended to be of something that it couldn’t have, and was an image that the desks must, surely, have seen before. “Sky News, the Guardian, and the news media in general, strive for veracity through vigilance.”, he adds, unconvincingly. We’ll bear that in mind. Happy Easter.

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