Oops: TV station wrongly connects MD’s College Park VFD to controversy involving GA fire company with same name.

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The patch shown in the graphic (above) from a story by Atlanta station WSB-TV is from the College Park VFD in Prince George’s County, Maryland. The problem is the story is about the College Park Fire Department in Georgia and a female firefighter who is being investigated for some “racy” online photos.

We mentioned the story in Quick Takes this morning, but failed to pay attention to the video and catch this error. It took one of our sharp-eyed STATter911.com readers to find this. It’s far from the worst mistake in the world, but it is one that likely comes from easy access to images via the Internet and being in a hurry. I know, because I have made mistakes on the blog where I believed fire video was from department A but it was actually department B with the same name in another state. That I can recall, none of my mistakes over the years involved reputation issues.

We told an official with CPVFD in Maryland about the issue in Georgia.

To my friends in the news business, symbols do matter. Especially to firefighters. You wouldn’t want a picture of your child popping up in the middle of a bad news story. Remember the fire department is their baby.

The same goes when you use a picture of what you think is a generic fire truck or ambulance as a graphic to illustrate a story but is actually one that can be identified from a specific department unrelated to the news event. This is a rather common complaint I have heard from firefighters for the 25-years I was in television and still crops up quite regularly. Below is an example of what I am talking about. The UK’s Daily Mail used the picture of an FDNY engine to illustrate an ugly event last year in Virginia where a fire truck was taken for a drunken joy ride. News organizations lose credibility with firefighters when they do such things. Even if they do label the image “file photo”.

With so many images on the web available it takes diligence to make sure it’s the right one. The College Park mix-up is relatively minor compared to some misidentifications. I’m aware of a TV station a couple of years ago that rushed a picture on the air of a suspect in a very high profile shooting case. It turned out to be a Facebook photo of a well respected police officer. The person who made that mistake lost their job.