11 April 2008

Olympic Protestors or Supporters? The Case of the Erroneous Photo Caption

We had a misleading caption on a photo we used with a story on VOANews.com regarding the San Francisco Olympic demonstrations. Our caption read: “Protesters at the beginning of the route of the Olympic torch run in San Francisco on 09 Apr 2008.”

Unfortunately, these were supporters, not protesters, as evidenced by the Chinese text in the banner which read "Go Beijing Olympics" and the English sign which read "Hurting the Games Will Turn China Backwards not Forward Don't Extinguish the Torch of Hope."

We corrected the English caption to read: “Spectators at the beginning of Olympic torch route in San Francisco, 09 Apr 2008”. We also added an asterisk (*) with a correction note at the bottom of the story, explaining when it was changed and what was wrong originally.

The mistake occurred when one of our web editors made an error in retyping the caption supplied by the Associated Press with the photo, incorrectly using the word “protesters” instead of “spectators”.

We have sent an email to everyone who complained: "Thank you. We have posted a correction on the photo caption, and we apologize for the error. It was not our intent to be misleading."

We received lots of complaints, some gracious, others less so. Here’s a sampling:

Ming accused VOA of “making up news.”

John Wang addressed his complaint to: “Distorted Reporter on Beijing Olympic Game.”

Xia said: “This kind of misrepresentation is very off-putting to many members of the Chinese community…”

Ben Shi said: “Voice of America was and still is a my reliable source of news around world…As your loyal listener, I really hope that VOA makes less mistakes, especially on sensitive issue. No business or organization afford the accumulative effect of the cost of small mistakes, if they do not pay attention to it.”

Zhang Lu said: “…you should feel shame on what you have reported, you're breaking your principle of ‘a trusted source of news and information since 1942.’”

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