USA Today Drops Sports Photographer Over Misrepresented Baseball Photo


Any professional photographer who’s been working long enough has experienced the humiliation of missing the big shot, so it wasn’t that big a story when two sports photographers missed Ichiro Suzuki’s landmark 4,000th base hit at a recent New York Yankees game.

It’s what happened afterward, when USA Today Sports Images photographer Debby Wong passed off a photo of another Suzuki swing as the iconic moment, that turned the incident into a significant photojournalism ethics fail.

Wong and New York Daily News Andrew Theodorakis were covering the Aug. 21 game from neighboring positions when Suzuki scored the big hit. Wong missed the shot due to apparent chimping, Theodorakis because Wong’s lens blocked his view.

The latter was enough to start a ruckus in the pit, with a Yankees representative eventually intervening and reminding Wong that she was outside her assigned spot.

It also made the miss widespread news, at least in the world of New York sports photographers, so numerous eyebrows were raised when a Wong photo of Suzuki swinging later appeared on the USA Today site with the caption: “New York Yankees right fielder Ichiro Suzuki singles to left field to record his 4,000th career hit…”

Photographers started talking, noticing the batter’s body position in Wong’s photo didn’t match other shots of the moment. The conversation hit a new level of urgency a few days later, when Reuters announced it was dropping all freelance sports photographers in favor of images from USA Today Sports Images, which provides for sports photo for USA Today and other Gannett publications, along with a growing roster of subscribers.

Five days after the game, UTSI issued a kill notice for Wong’s photo, explaining only that it “was not correctly identified.” UTSI President Bruce Odle later confirmed that Wong’s contract with the agency had been terminated.

(via NPAA)

Image credits:  NPAA/USA Today

  • harumph

    So stupid. How in the world did she think she’d get away with it if she’d already drawn attention to the fact that she had missed the shot?

  • Andy Umbo

    Between chimping during a vital ‘at bat’, blocking another photographer, and not being in her assigned space; sounds like she wasn’t a ‘pro’ shooter at all. Makes you wonder how people get the credentials to be there?

  • TSY87

    … why would you be chimping during a time like that?!

  • Scott M.

    That had to be the only thing worth shooting that day, as both teams are out of contention. Ok, get that one shot….d’oh, chimped and blocked.

  • 434324342

    lügen haben (oftmals) kurze beine….

  • Barkingghost

    In the early 90’s, I took a photojournalism class at the University of Florida. I was not a student in the college of journalism, but took the class because I liked photography and before the class found people to be uninteresting. This class forced me to interact with humans, even if it meant in a passive manner.

    Anyway, we had weekly assignments and the best six results were gone over with the class instructor. This particular week we had to take pictures of people looking busy during the course of their work day. The sixth reviewed work that week for best work came from a young lady. She claimed the men in the picture were so-and-so but the reality of the situation was she lied.

    She got caught because the men in the picture actually worked in the college, were good friends with the class instructor, and their purported names, jobs, etc. forwarded by the young lady were 100% USDA trash lies. The instructor held up the photo for everyone in class to see, the photographer smiling broadly being the proud photographer, and then the teacher proceeded to tear the photo up into tiny pieces.

    Said lady turned so red I thought she might pass out. The instructor handed out the goods on the men, explained the idea of ethics in journalism, and the girl, without being named in class, ran from the classroom. Lesson learned. I honestly cannot remember if she came back ever again.

  • Nature Photographer

    Chimping during a historic moment. Screwing up a neighboring photographers shot. Submitting a fraudulent image to her agency. The Triple Crown of sports photography incompetence.

  • jrconner

    Without knowing more about her reason for chimping, I’d cut her some slack on that one. It’s hard to think of a good reason for chimping at that point, but perhaps she had one. But I’d boot her in her tail for interfering with a fellow photographer, and boot her off the job for submitting a fraudulent photograph.

    The moral, of course, is that it’s better to get fired for missing the shot than to get fired for misrepresenting the shot submitted.

  • zeptom

    If you understand the article, why then comment in German?
    Is’t cos the comment is a little bit racists?

  • Terry

    As a photojournalist, and former picture editor, there is NEVER a reason for chimping if you’re assigned to capture a historic moment, especially if it’s about to happen!

    Wong tried to cover her arse with a lie and got caught. Firing her was the only option. She obviously knew that, which probably is why she tried to sneak the picture through the system.

  • foorider

    Old news, this happened a month ago and was widely reported then.

  • A

    its a german phrase, when translated it says “lies have short legs” – which isn’t a common phrase in english and would sound odd to just write in english. if you can’t understand german, why comment? (don’t need to reply, just reflect on that)

  • james

    “Wong missed the shot due to apparent chimping, Theodorakis because Wong’s lens blocked his view.” – this sentence makes no sense.

  • Bad Joke Guy

    What she did was VERY Wong

  • Rabi Abonour

    Beyond that, people miss shots. Had she admitted the mistake she probably wouldn’t have been called for the next big game, but it would not have been an insurmountable mark on her reputation. Filing a fraudulent image, on the other hand…

  • Jeff

    I did a double-take as well, but the sentence isn’t wrong, just poorly constructed. It’s a compound sentence with two subjects. For example: Wong missed the shot, and Theo missed the shot. Or: “Wong missed the shot due to apparent chimping, Thoedorakis [missed the shot] because Wong’s lens blocked his view.”

  • tig

    auf jeden! ;-) äh: ON EVERY!

  • Nobo Griffin

    Maybe he thought you were saying asians have short legs ;)

  • james

    Spot on Jeff. Thanks for taking the time!

  • Ridgecity

    Magazines and newspapers sometimes choose cute employees.