By: Joe Strupp
It’s no surprise that the death of Lady Bird Johnson was front-page news in nearly every Texas newspaper Thursday. But those who picked up the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and the San Antonio Express-News got a surprise they likely didn’t even know about.
A colorful Page One photo of Johnson, the former first lady and widow of President Lyndon Johnson, published on the front page of both papers actually appeared backward. The photo, of a smiling Johnson dressed in a green dress and strolling through a field of purple flowers, depicts her walking to the left, with her left hand on her hip.
In reality, the photo was taken with the former first lady in the opposite pose. Larry Lutz, Star-Telegram managing editor/development, said his staff became concerned when copies of the nearby Dallas Morning News had the same photo, but published in reverse.
“We discovered something was wrong, tracked down the original photographer and called him,” said Lutz. “He described the photo and we knew then.” Lutz placed an editor’s note on the paper’s Web site admitting the goof and plans to run a correction in Friday’s paper.
Editors at the Express-News could not immediately be reached for comment.
Lutz said the error occurred because the paper had obtained the image from the Web site of the Wildflower Center, a University of Texas agricultural facility founded by Johnson that had posted the photo backward. He said editors asked to use the photo and had the image sent in that form, believing it was the proper format.
“They have an online photo gallery, and in that gallery was that photo,” Lutz added. “We wanted to use it.” He said editors discussed how the mistake occurred and pointed out that no one at the paper had reversed the image. “We have all deconstructed what happened and talked a lot about it,” he said. “It is one of those things that happens.”