Why is CNN News using a photo that was in the Onion 6 years ago?

I browse the CNN online news every day, and just now I came across a photo on the health page that looked remarkably familiar. IThen it hit me: this same photo was used in an Onion article. I have a photographic memory and I remembered that the article was about a couple that wouldn’t stop talking about their sex life. Using this knowledge, I searched on the Onion website and it took me 2 seconds to find the original Onion article:

Original Onion Article

So, why is CNN using this photo? Is there some massive collection of stock photos that they have drawn from, unaware that the Onion used the same one half a decade ago?

It’s not the first time this kind of thing has happened. I distinctly remember seeing a picture of a teenager with a backwards baseball cap on the draft registration webpage (when I turned 18 and registered online) and recalling seeing the same exact teenager on a Game Informer subscription renewal card. I scanned the card and made a little side-by-side comparison of the images: here it is, in case you wanted to look at it.

Am I the only one who catches this stuff?

Yep. Several collections, actually.

There is a website that’s dedicated to a woman whose stock photo was used by lots of companies advertising emails. In one piece of spam, she’d be a character that was looking for love, and in another piece, she’d be shown pushing male enhancement products or something.

Maybe someone who knows what I’m talking about will add a link.

Consumer Reports magazine occasionally shows cases like that on their last page.

There’s this: http://www.cockeyed.com/citizen/spam/alicia/alicia.html

I sat next to a woman on an airplane who worked for one of those stock photo places. She and her family posed for a lot of the photos. She tole me about how her friends would see her family all the time and call her. “Hey, I’m in Vegas and your kids are on a billboard ad for health insurance.”

I never spent much time thinking about it, but I always pretty much assumed that they were using something like stock photos. Think of all the little teaser photos for “next page” articles on health, finance, sex, real estate, child rearing, cooking, etc. that show up on AOL, Yahoo!, MSN, etc. that are never displayed as part of the story once you open up the actual page. It is rather unlikely that anyone actually sent a crew out to do a photoshoot just to decorate the teaser for a one- or two-page article that is probably going to bring in just a few hundred dollars in advertising revenue.

My guess would be that even most of the friendly faces on your banks’, power companies’, phone companies’, and gas companies’ sites are shared among different vendors.

Two years ago, I worked as an editorial assistant for a magazine. One of my jobs was finding images to go with stories, so I would occasionally have to search Getty Images for photos. Yes, it’s just a big database full of photos. I’m sure a lot of them are frequently re-used.

This guy is some kind of sick characture of human.

What I love is when CNN or The New York Times actually plagerizes The Onion. You know, like when a radio personality vocally mocks a celebrity with Parkinson’s Disease, or we deploy troops in transporters with aluminum armor. Great humor, but not really appropriate for a serious news outlet.


I’m a graphic design, and yes, we often use stock photos. Heck, I’ve only once had a custom shoot. Stock photos that are cheap or applicable in a wide variety of situations or just look good will get used more; as well as ones sold on popular CDs (collections of stock photos sold on CD for a single price). I know in my industry I will see the same photo again and again, but there’s not a huge pool of good photos and it’s more work to find the ones not stocked on getty or other big sites. It costs more to hire models and photogs and it takes time and there’s no guarantee about what you get, while with stock photos you just look around, see something you like and buy the rights. You do get some amusing goofs with that sometimes, like the microsoft page with the stock photo showing someone using a mac. (http://macdailynews.com/index.php/weblog/comments/10546/)

Somehow, this seems like a particularly dangerous comment to add, but… What format are you saved in?


DON’T TELL HIM! If he knows, he’ll be able to steal your soul!

I’m a vector eps! Ph33r my PostScript!

When The Onion isn’t using stock photos, they often do their photo shoots around Madison, Wisconsin, where it’s published. Recognizable buildings will have fake new signs inserted digitally.

Does anyone know anything about the history or the personalities behind The OPnion. It’s consistently funny, intelligent and spot on yet, unlike any other comedy ensembles I have ever experienced, it doesn’t bring its creators/performers to the fore.

Why, thank you for asking. It started out in 1988 as a local humor paper by a couple of University of Wisconsin juniors, Tim Keck and Christopher Johnson, basically as a vehicle to wrap advertising around. My brother was their roommate. The satire was very local: cover stories about nude pictures circulating of university chancellor Donna Shalala, or the state governor declaring October “Masturbation Month”.

It was a profit-maker from the start. In 1989 they sold the weekly to two of their Onion colleagues, Scott Dikkers and Peter Haise, for $19,000. Tim Keck went out to Seattle and started another paper, The Stranger.

Just wait until you catch CNN using “news” from the Onion and passing it off as REAL news. Wouldn’t surprise me.

I was going to reply in this thread just to post this URL. Rob Cockerham did a lot of legwork to track down all instances of this one model’s appearance in different ads and brochures, and built up a story based on the various settings.

The story has a great epilogue - the model in the stock photos emailed Rob.

That website rules.

Was reading a few months ago about how that’s one of the biggest ways you can make money in the Photography industry, assuming you don’t want to get into hooker-on-a-streetcorner catfights with other photographers for much-profitable school portrait or wedding photography jobs.

Ah, so you look just as good up close as from a distance, and you’re understandable to anyone, but only if they make a special effort to be compatible with you. Got it.