Public editor

Why no photo on story?

Updated: 2013-12-05T00:04:17Z

By Derek Donovan

The Kansas City Star

One of the most-shared stories this week on most media sources around town is running with a photograph of one of the people involved, but that image has not appeared on or in the print edition of The Kansas City Star. A caller today asked why.

The Star’s policy is not to use photographs taken from social media or other Internet sources without the permission of the person or his or her family. That appears to be where other media have gotten this specific shot.

Is that policy over-cautious? You could argue that. But I think there’s a strong journalistic defense to it as well.

What about when The Star uses police booking shots? And especially what about when one of those shots is used to identify a person who is later the victim of a homicide? I have spoken to multiple family members through the years who have objected to The Star’s use of these images, which are public documents. Their concerns there are perfectly understandable.

To reach Derek Donovan, call 816-234-4487 weekday mornings or send email to Follow him at

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