Daily Iowan Editor-in-Chief Resigns After Mugshots Published with Meth Story

Adam B. Sullivan, the editor-in-chief of The Daily Iowan, resigned suddenly and still without much explanation earlier this week after the paper printed a set of photos that were not related to the front-page story they accompanied.

As Iowa City Patch reports, “On Tuesday, the Daily Iowan published this story on an increase of meth burn cases being treated at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics. However, the paper ran a front page correction the following day.  According to the correction . . . photos of people that ran with the story were not of meth burn victims treated at the UIHC, but instead were mug shots from the Johnson County Jail of individuals with methamphetamine charges.”  [Note: Photos don’t appear in online version of the story.]

To be clear, the concerns are three-fold:

1) The paper, well, lied, in its presentation by making it appear that the individuals photographed were victims receiving hospital care, not those who at one time had been placed under arrest.

2) The use of photos of specific people, passed off as meth burn victims, gives the perception that the hospital provided info on patients, including their names and ailments, an obvious no-no.  UIHC subsequently released a statement explaining that they offered no such data and had no hand in the mugshot photos.

3) It exploits the individuals featured in the mugshot photos, plastering an old image of them at a down moment in their lives with a current story that has nothing to do with them.  As one commenter wrote beneath the article’s online version (hat tip Romenesko), “NONE of these people are burn victims. They have nothing to do with this story. I think that is horrible they used their pictures, and on the front page? come on really? i hope they sue the crap out of you.”

It seems a staffer or staffers knowingly sought out and published the mugshot photos, although it is not clear whether Sullivan knew about their origins prior to publication.  Regardless, he resigned on the day they appeared in print.  The paper’s correction, published the next day:

“On March 20, The Daily Iowan ran a front page story regarding meth-lab burn patient statistics at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics. With the story, the DI published seven photographs. The combination of the photographs and the story may have given the impression that those seven people had been treated at the UIHC burn unit. The DI, in fact, had no information that those individuals had been patients at the UIHC. Hospital staff provided no photographs or patient information for the story. The photographs were obtained from the Johnson County Jail and were of individuals arrested for some methamphetamine charges in Johnson County in 2011. The DI regrets the errors.”

Sullivan’s only public statement so far about his resignation: “While it’s unfortunate that my time at The Daily Iowan ended early, I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished there over the last four years. I have every confidence that the staff I put in place will continue to see success the rest of this year and beyond. I look forward to continuing my journalistic career elsewhere.”


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2 Responses to “Daily Iowan Editor-in-Chief Resigns After Mugshots Published with Meth Story”
  1. Frances says:

    Casey claims that the university has never tried to influence a decision by the paper? What a crock. Eleven years into Casey’s tenure, the DI advertising staff learned about a story on health inspections of restaurants. Several restaurants that fared poorly advertised in The DI. The story never ran.

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