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Public Editor Sylvia Stead responds to readers and gives a behind-the-scenes look

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A Syrian boy walks next to the rubble of a house in the town of Taftanaz, Syria, on June 5, 2012. (Associated Press)
A Syrian boy walks next to the rubble of a house in the town of Taftanaz, Syria, on June 5, 2012. (Associated Press)

Public editor: No, this photo was not Photoshopped Add to ...

A few readers were puzzled about an image on the cover of Wednesday’s newspaper that showed a Syrian boy walking next to the rubble of a shelled-out house. Readers wondered why there were two boys and why the shadows were in opposite directions. One asked if it was photoshopped “unless the sun shines from two directions simultaneously.”

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If you study the photo above you will see that the boy on the left is being reflected in a mirror. Our policy is very clear on news images. It states that they are documentary images which “must never be manipulated, combined or distorted either in a camera or on a computer. News photographs must not be staged and must not be re-enacted from incidents or events.”

This photo was beautifully shot into the mirror in the wrecked building and therefore captured both the boy walking down the street and his reflection. But perhaps our cutline information could have been clearer in stating that one image was a reflection.

Other readers over the past week have been irritated by our use and some might say overuse of acronyms or abbreviations.

Sometimes an acronym is more common and understood than the full term spelled out, such as FM (frequency modulation), NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization), YMCA (Young Men’s Christian Association) and radar (radio detection and ranging).

Then there are others that are more obscure and just serve to annoy our readers. Here is one letter I received. “What are GSAs? What is OCSTA? I had to interrupt my reading of this article to back scan it to find out the meaning of these acronyms. This is a very irritating waste of my time. In times past, acronyms were usually introduced into a newspaper article in parentheses directly following the item they represented,” wrote one reader.

The reader is right. Whenever we use an acronym we should spell it out. GSA stands for gay straight alliance and OCSTA is the Ontario Catholic School Trustees Association. As a former education reporter, I know the entire field is full of acronyms: OTF (Ontario Teachers’ Federation), OSSTF (Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation), OECTA (Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Assocation), etc. Our stories should avoid what I have just done and that is bombard the readers with an alphabet soup.

Please comment below on your thoughts this or anything you see online or in our newspaper or email me at publiceditor@globeandmail.com

Follow on Twitter: @SylviaStead

 

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