New Zealand Newspaper Makes ‘Appalling’ Front Page Photo Mistake by Using Facebook


In the age of social media, major publications frequently source photos from Facebook or Twitter profiles. But as the NZ Herald recently discovered, this can lead to major, embarrassing mistakes.

Yesterday, the publication set out to tell the tragic story of New Zealand-born Israeli soldier Guy Boyland, who was killed in Gaza. But on the very front page, where the paper presumably meant to publish an image of Boyland, they instead used a Getty Image of deceased Jackass star Ryan Dunn.

The mixup, it seems, happened when the paper decided to grab an image from Boyland’s Facebook instead of reaching out to the family or other official sources. Boyland bears a slight resemblance to Dunn and had, it seems, used the photo of the deceased actor as a profile pic at some point. It was this photo the that the Herald unwittingly published on its front page:

The mistake was, of course, noticed eventually and corrected on the online version (complete with an apology to readers and the Boyland family) but the print publication is still out there and some, like writer and founder of the website Whale Oil Beef Hooked Cameron Slater, feel the mistake is unconscionable.

“That is appalling, how can you do that?” wrote a disbelieving Slater. “Disrespecting the real person who died, disrespecting Ryan Dunn, and their credibility all at the same time.”

Using a deceased person’s Facebook or Twitter picture without permission to illustrate an article is already an ethically questionable, albeit common, practice. When you combine that with a looming deadline and cut corners, however, you can easily cross the line from ‘ethically questionable’ to, as Slater put it, ‘appalling.’

Thanks for sending in the tip, Lance!

  • BDWT

    Karma. Steal photos, feel shame.

  • Kynikos

    ‘Appalling’ is over the top.

  • Matt

    Really though? An establishment that we’re supposed to rely on for factual news can’t even be bothered to check the source of where they get a photo for the cover of their publication? I’d say appalling works.

  • carlamc

    Seriously… if you don’t have a source-provided quote or image, then cross-referencing to make sure what you do have is accurate, is the Responsibility and actual job of any journalist, photojournalist, and editors and fact checkers! … Extra questioning to triple check validity should be done if they see a ‘from facebook’ attribute on an image during the editing review stage. Presuming editors do review things still?

  • Brad Trent

    No…it’s hardly over the top…in fact, it’s AMAZINGLY appalling! This is the state of news organizations around the World now…get it in fast and get it out quicker! No time for fact checking, let alone even getting the basic facts straight. I have seen so many magazines and particularly newspapers that I work for making these types of ridiculous errors simply because the photo editors and art directors are under tremendous pressure to constantly update their web pages with fresh content from their fancy new ‘Digital Editors’ who think there’s nothing to spitting out news items by the pound…it’s all about click-throughs and if you mess up, that’s just groovy, they can fix it later.

  • Lucy Williams

    I have a similar story. A few years ago the newspapers (in the UK) used an image I’d taken of a person which they’d lifted from her FB profile. It was used in connection with a big news story – her identity was made very public and her privacy compromised in a story that she was only involved in because it happened to her friend (the newspapers thought the story had happened to her and published her photo as being the person involved). The newspapers wanted to get the story out quickly and didn’t have the facts/ stop to check them. She complained and all they did was apologise. Not really good enough considering they’d totally destroyed her privacy at the time AND got the story wrong.

    However, as the photographer of the image, I fought back and got the image removed from connection with the story online (it was too late for print) plus compensation for use of the image. At the time I spoke with a lawyer and they were desperate to take the newspapers to court for image stealing, they said it was happening all the time. It’s not ideal, but it is one way we can fight back. Even if you are not a professional photographer, you own copyright to the images you’ve taken and in these days of citizen journalism people should claim compensation. Maybe if the newspapers are made to pay, then they’ll be more cautious in stealing images from Facebook profiles.

  • PTBridgeport

    “New Media” at it’s finest…….

  • Alexandra G.

    Actually this is something that should be taught in schools, unless the people writing in these magazines are picked up from homeless shelters, or Craigslist!

    Someone with an education would know better, and an educational facility should train better. Embarrassing. Once the law suits will start pouring we’ll see some changes to the way people treat content found online.

  • Better Off Damned

    I think calling this “appalling” or “unconscionable” is a little bit much. It’s an error, but honestly of what consequence is it at the end of the day? No one is actually harmed by it, particularly either of the dead men. Personally I’d refer to it as a “whoopsie” at worst.

  • pgb0517

    As a former practicing journalist, I can say with certainty that “appalling” is far too soft a word to describe this. I was an editor long before we had an Internet to help us make mistakes. Simply put: don’t use something without verification. You just don’t do it. Sure, we made lots of mistakes on the copy desk in my day, but the Internet just makes it so much easier to be stupid than anything we had before, so it takes an extra level of thought and hey-wait-a-minute before embarrassing your publication and your subjects.

  • photo570

    This is not unusual for the NZHerald. I am from NZ, and I have pretty much given up on them, as the standard has slipped so far in the last 10 years it is not funny. The thing is riddled with spelling and grammatical errors, reading it now days just makes me embarrassed to be a Kiwi sometimes. :-(

  • Tim Brown

    It took Google image search a whole .7 seconds to tell me that the picture was of Ryan Dunn. Modern day journalism is lazy.

  • Pickle

    Thanks Obama.

  • MEEfO

    You are the problem.

  • Chris Malmberg

    You are my favorite troll on the internets.

  • Kynikos

    This goes for all the drama queens who replied.

    Yes, ‘appalling’ is over the top. Looking at recent news…

    Migrant workers in some Muslim sheikhdom not getting paid for 13 months is appalling.
    Terrorists using civilians as human shields is ‘appalling’.
    Passenger planes getting blown out of the sky is ‘appalling’.
    Mass shootings are ‘appalling’.

    This was an editorial error. Please. Get over yourselves.

  • Alexandra G.

    That sucks.

  • Alexandra G.

    No, it’s called: being reckless! That is supposedly someone’s job that they’re getting paid for.

  • Alexandra G.

    Talk when you loose a child…til then refrain. It is harmful to the relatives…

  • Pickle

    The whole thing is just sad…I just wanted to lighten the mood :(

  • uni

    you are ‘appalling’ if you can’t understand the importance of factual news

  • BB

    Sounds like YOU are the problem, MEEIO, if you can’t see the problem here.

  • Matt

    You’re right those situations are appalling. In purely the sense of journalistic integrity, this is appalling. Words can scale to fit different contexts. It’s weird how that works.

  • dan110024

    The same thing happened in The Advertiser (South Australian paper). A young teenager died when he fell from a bridge that he was writing graffiti on (natural selection at work). The paper grabbed a picture of another Adelaide boy who had the same name on Facebook and ran it on the front page. You’d think there would be rules against this sort of thing in the journalism circles.

  • William Lanteigne

    A lot of things should be taught in schools: ethics, logic, critical thinking, basic scientific fundamentals, common law, basic personal finances, how the global economy is supposed to work- and how it actually works; rational, real-world kinds of stuff, the “nuts and bolts” of reality.

    According to The Washington Times, September 2008:

    In the US, “…half of all Americans believe they are protected by guardian angels, one-fifth say they’ve heard God speak to them, one-quarter say they have witnessed miraculous healings, 16 percent say they’ve received one and 8 percent say they pray in tongues…”

    Okay, so what about the theological “liberals,” those with minds that are more accepting of new ideas?

    “…theological liberals are more apt to believe in the paranormal and the occult – haunted houses, UFOs, communicating with the dead and astrology – than do conservatives.”

    Per Outside the Beltway December 2009:

    Percentage of Americans who believe in angels: 55%
    Percentage of Americans who believe in evolution:39%
    Percentage of Americans who believe in anthropogenic global warming: 36%
    Percentage of Americans who believe in ghosts: 34%
    Percentage of Americans who believe in UFOs: 34%

    Teaching rational thinking skills in school? Yes, it’s crucially needed. Good luck with that.

  • Alexandra G.

    “half of all Americans believe they are protected by guardian angels, one-fifth say they’ve heard God speak to them, one-quarter say they have witnessed miraculous healing’s, 16 percent say they’ve received one and 8 percent say they pray in tongues…”
    hahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha OMG that is HILARIOUS! If that is really true, we are are in deeper $hit that originally thought we were! hahahahaha

    Americans can’t seem to get out of the 1700’s either…LOL It’s really sad that a nation of over 300 million is incapable to adapt to the year they live in! LOL (With all the scientific and technological discoveries that we have now)…..

  • Grive

    In this case it was nothing but disrespect for the dead. However, this was a massively stupid error that could’ve caused a lot of damage.

    If this is the state of their fact-checkers, next week we’ll see the wrong John Doe on the cover, getting convicted of distribution of child pornography or somesuch.

    An error like that will destroy a life. Not can, will. Because once it’s out in print, there is no way to take it back. A retraction doesn’t help.

    And these standards likely apply to everything the newspaper does, so we also have to worry about misinformation.

    So yeah, appalling.

  • MEEfO

    The “I know you are but what am I?” response.. Embarrassing.

  • superduckz

    All those layers of editors and “fact checkers”… why do people subscribe to dead tree news again?

  • Christopher


  • William Lanteigne

    We are a medieval nation with a space program. And we’re at risk of losing our space program.