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Monday, February 13, 2006

WPTA's One Size, One Color Fits All Photo

One particular Fort Wayne police car is still getting a work-out from the Indiana News Center staff at WPTA Channel 21. The same shot is used to illustrate events that happened at night, happened during the day, happened here, happened there.

Here's the latest example of the ubiquitous police car taken from a screen capture from WPTA's website at 5:15 PM on Monday, February 13th:

It's not even necessary that the event take place in the Fort Wayne Police Department's jurisdiction. As Indiana Parley first pointed out, WPTA used this police car photograph to illustrate last week's story about the Richard Blaich death at his home...outside the city limits.

So, WPTA sees no need to determine whether a Fort Wayne police car ever graced the scene of the incident WPTA is reporting.

AWB at Fort Wayne Indiana etc. reported on this phenomenon at this post when the photo was subseqently used. AWB illustrated the post with the following image of the side-by-side screen captures:
As AWB wrote:
While it is an acceptable practice to use file photos, one would assume they would be directly related to the story, even if it's a purported picture of the crime scene. WPTA seems to throw that assumption out the window and has now twice used photos out of context.
AWB, make that three times.

There is a simple explanation for this, like many websites they create images for different topics. The police car is a topic image that they tack on to any news story involving police, whether its the city police or state police. If you look around you will see other topic images used more than once. A quick look through the site led me to see the same picture of an ambulance for news stories where injuries occurred. These are not supposed to be images showing the scene where the news story happened, but are simply an image just to add to the look of the page, while still being loosely related to the topic.
Fair point.

However, marked police cars do convey specific information.

A better stock photo might be one of a light bar on the police car - not a particular department's car.

A photo of an ambulance might work better if it were one of an ambulance that had just been manufactured and not yet had markings placed on it.

Photos with markings from the Fort Wayne Police Department, Fort Wayne Fire Department or the Three Rivers Ambulance Authority draw laughs from the members of other departments when used to illustrate incidents happening in, say, Auburn, or New Haven.
Oh, I get it now. Since we've been hearing about all these cutbacks and streamlining at WPTA/WISE, we can now assume that these "topic photos" are automatically inserted by a computer when the word "POLICE" appears in any headline. The computers are so efficient, cheap, and GOOD that no graphic editing is necessary, so they fired that person too. Sad stuff.
More than likely when they type up the article they just have a list with all the images and select one that relates to the news story.

You talk about marked police cars, but the angle the picture is taken from all you can see is "POLICE." You do not see Fort Wayne Police department or any other department marking. Yes, you can probably recognize that it is from a certain department, but no specific markings can be seen. It is just a general representation of the police.

On the ambulance, like the police car, no specific department markings can be seen. (http://www.indianasnewscenter.com/Story.aspx?preview=&type=ln&NStoryID=2121)

These topic images serve not only to make the article not look so plain, but as a second title for the news story. A person can bring up the website and see a picture of a fire truck (which duplicate images of a fire truck can also be found) and immediately assume that the news story is about a fire.
Great work! This does not explain away.
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