Lost refugee boy photo lacked important context: He wasn’t lost

A picture is worth a thousand words and sometimes 999 of the words are wrong.

This tweet raced across the Internet this week. It showed a boy “all alone” in the desert, fleeing the violence of Syria. It was based on a picture distributed by a U.N. agency.

Not dramatic enough? CNN International anchor Hala Gorani ratcheted up the drama a bit. It wasn’t wrong, just misleading in its utter lack of context.

He had become separated from his parents and was left to fend for himself. U.S. news organizations, including NBC Nightly News last night, picked up the story and ran it unchecked.

The original story said the young boy was later reunited with his family, thanks to the help of U.N. workers.

It wasn’t that hard, the family was about 20 steps ahead of him.

It took Storyful’s Open Newsroom community on Google+ to provide the context that was required for a photo like this.