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Public editor: Monday’s front page photo was unacceptable

Canadian Kaetlyn Osmond performs in the gala at the World Figure Skating Championships in London, Ont., on March 17, 2013. This was not the photo that ran on the front page of Monday’s Globe and Mail.

Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press

I heard from many readers Monday on e-mail, Twitter and by phone who were unhappy about The Globe's front page photo of 17-year-old figure skater Kaetlyn Osmond, and I agree with them that it was not an acceptable photo for the front page.

It showed a very happy and very successful Kaetlyn, who came eighth in the ISU World Figure Skating Championship, skating a joyous gala routine on Sunday and kicking her leg up high while wearing a typical brief skating skirt over skin-coloured tights. The readers and I both thought the photo could be embarrassing to anyone, although Kaetlyn, who is a good sport and a great skater, responded on Twitter that she was happy to be on the front page and said "I really like that picture."

Still, some readers described the photo as too revealing, although it was a typical skating costume. Others said surely you could have found a more dignified photo and I agree with those readers. Many readers (and I fall into the same camp) are very proud of our Canadian athletes and feel paternal or maternal toward them and their great accomplishments. So, they want photos to show our athletes in the best possible light and not to (potentially) embarrass them. And while the news imperative is to show action photos of athletes, there were many other photos of Kaetlyn (such as the one included with this blog post) and the other victorious Canadian skaters that could have shown their strength and grace.

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One reader objected to the Saturday photo of world champion skater Patrick Chan as he tumbled on a jump. I would defend that photo inside the sports section because that was the news of the day – despite the fall, he was victorious.

Managing Editor Elena Cherney said that as an A1 picture, the photo of Kaetlyn was meant to showcase a young Canadian's accomplishment at a sporting event, and to provide some fun and colour on the page. "However, the shot we used was an unfortunate choice, and the goal of highlighting Kaetlyn's performance could have been achieved with a different picture. This will be part of an ongoing conversation in the newsroom around picture and image selection."

In my view, the editors need to stop and think about these shots whether in skating, diving or gymnastics. The strength of these photos is that they show strong bodies in motion, but you should ask yourself if you would want yourself pictured this way. Greater care needs to be taken on the front page than on any other because it is essentially the front door.

If you would like to comment on this or any other subject, please send me an e-mail at publiceditor@globeandmail.com

Postscript: In an interview with Maurie Sherman on Toronto radio station Kiss 92.5 to be aired Tuesday morning, Kaetlyn Osmond said she was thrilled to be on the front page and wasn't bothered by the photo. "Truthfully I don't mind the photo. It's part of my program and it's fun… Our skirts go flying all the time. We're used to it."

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About the Author
Public Editor

Sylvia Stead has been a reporter and editor at the Globe since 1975, after graduating from the University of Western Ontario in Journalism with a minor in Political Science. She won the Board of Governors Award there in 1974. As a reporter, Sylvia covered courts, education and Queen's Park. More

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