Public editor

Beached whale photo missing context (updated)

Updated: 2014-02-19T01:10:47Z

By Derek Donovan

The Kansas City Star

An update from the wire editor who chose the photo: The image was available on the wires Sunday night, but there was no further information available at that time. But he thought (and I see this point) that it was interesting enough to run, even without much info. Original post:

A photo on the Nation & World page in today’s print edition depicted people standing atop a whale. Its caption read:

A beached sperm whale provided an impromptu photo opportunity Sunday for beachgoers who posed atop it at Henne Strand on the west coast of Denmark.

“Was the beached whale on page 2 dead or alive?” asked one emailer. “If it was alive, why were the people ON it? If it was dead, why were the people ON it? What idea was The Star trying to convey?”

All very valid questions. And unfortunately, when I looked at the full information supplied with the photo, I found no further answers.

That image came from The Associated Press, and the full caption info read:

People walk over a beached Sperm Whale at Henne Strand, North of Esbjerg on the Danish West Coast, Denmark, Sunday, Feb. 16, 2014.

After some poking around, I found a story on the site of Danish newspaper Politiken with more detail. It says the whale is one of two who were beached. This one died, and people took to standing and posing atop it. (The link is in Danish, by the way.)

My experience tells me that readers are always keenly interested in any news items about animals, so I’m not shocked at all to have heard this question. I don’t know whether there was an accompanying story available on the wires to broaden the caption, but it would have gone a long way to pre-emptively answer an obviously fair question.

To reach Derek Donovan, call 816-234-4487 weekday mornings or send email to publiceditor@kcstar.com. Follow him at Twitter.com/KCStarPublic.

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