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Seattle Times photographers offer a glimpse into what inspires their best visual reporting.

December 4, 2013 at 9:48 PM

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A cautionary tale on the use of a photo


ERIKA SCHULTZ / THE SEATTLE TIMES

Sisters Faisa Farole, 33, left, and Jamila Farole, 28, are among women trying to preserve female-only swim times at the Tukwila Pool.

Last week, The Seattle Times published a story headlined, "Women-only swim times spark emotional debate,'' about a controversy over women-only hours at a pool in Tukwila. The women had requested the female-only swim times for both body-image and religious reasons.

The story was accompanied by a portrait I took of sisters Faisa Farole and Jamila Farole, who were trying to preserve female-only swim times.

This week, I learned that the Fox News network aired a story about a Minnesota swimming pool that was setting aside hours for Muslim women to swim. Fox suggested this was an example of the growing influence of Sharia law in the U.S., and included The Seattle Times photo from the Tukwila pool.

The Fox video clip, which has been shared on blogs across the country and even ran on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, began this way: "The minority becoming the majority at one community pool. Sharia Law is now changing everything...''

The Seattle Times did not authorize use of this photograph on Fox News. We are not sure how Fox News acquired this image, though it could be through a labeling mistake by The Associated Press. The Seattle Times often distributes images through the AP but with language that prevents use by television networks.

Using my photo to illustrate a story on a swimming program in Minnesota, under the title "Sharia Law: Swim Class for Somali Muslim Girls," is unfair to the young women in the photo and misleads viewers.

As a photojournalist, this incident was troubling to me.

For years, photographers on our staff have worked to develop contacts, trust and story ideas within this region’s many communities—including the East African community. Photographs can be extremely sensitive, but I've seen access increase over the years due to positive response to our stories and photo projects.

An incident like this has the power to intrude into those relationships and our future coverage. People may not want to work with media outlets for fear of being portrayed inaccurately.

This out-of-context and misleading use of this image reaffirms the importance of ethical, contextual journalism.

I appreciate the Farole sisters for the courage to stand up for their beliefs, and their willingness to share their story with the larger community to which they belong.

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Fox News isn't journalism... its propaganda. They breed hate and intolerance..... MORE
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