The Beaver whittles Yukon history

Brace yourselves history buffs, The Beaver has felled a Yukon fir tree. The April-May issue of The Beaver magazine has a six-page feature story on…

Brace yourselves history buffs, The Beaver has felled a Yukon fir tree.

The April-May issue of The Beaver magazine has a six-page feature story on Fort Selkirk, Yukon, as well as some, um, interesting images of the site.

Two photos provided by the Yukon government appear in the magazine, modified from their original appearance.

One has an inserted sunrise and sunspots; the second has lost a fir tree from the site as well as a bell tower and steeple from St. Andrew’s Anglican church.

Yukon historic sites communication officer Michael Edwards accompanied Pamela Klaffke, the article’s author, to Fort Selkirk last summer and took several photos while he was there.

He submitted two of them to The Beaver (the photos are owned by the Yukon government, mind you) along with several other historic images.

But while the old photos were printed in the magazine unmolested, the two photos Edwards took weren’t so lucky, he said.

“They made significant alterations to both of them,” said Edwards.

One of the photos anchors the article and is displayed over two pages in the magazine.

It features St. Andrew’s church and the nearby rectory but, for unexplained reasons, a sun and sunspots have been inserted in the picture.

“I think they were intending it to be a sunrise, with some resulting flares across the photo that weren’t there,” said Edwards.

“It was inserted in a place where the sun never rises or sets,” he added with a chuckle. “The result is the photograph is obviously lit from one side — the front — but they’ve put the sun in a place where it would be backlit.

“The lighting would not look like that in reality,” said Edwards. “It goes against the law of physics.”

The article is entitled Yukon Rising, and seems to play on the faked sunrise.

The second altered photo also includes St. Andrew’s church.

It includes several changes.

“This was the more startling one: they removed the steeple from the church completely, as well as removing a fairly tall fir tree that stands right in front of the church,” said Edwards.

“It’s an old tree so almost any photograph that anyone has of that building … you can’t escape the fact there’s a massive fir tree.”

The changes appear to have been made to add room for text, he said.

Edwards’ main concern is that history buffs who have been to Fort Selkirk and who read the Beaver article will think the church has been modified.

 “I do want people to know is that the Yukon government hasn’t tore the steeple down or cut the tree down,” he said.

 “It really isn’t personal for me,” he said.

“Taking a key piece of architecture of a historic building is just something that’s not done.”

The Beaver has e-mailed Edwards an apology and will run an unaltered photo of the church, complete with its steeple, in the next issue.

“We’re still looking into what’s happening as well,” said The Beaver’s publisher Deborah Morrison from Winnipeg.

“The editor that was looking after the piece was in transition, so it could be that some of our usual fact-checking procedures weren’t in place,” she said.

“To be honest, all I can say is we apologize. I recognize in the second instance especially is a big error so we’re going to correct it in the magazine by running an errata with the proper image explaining that.”

Morrison is going to speak with the editorial workers at The Beaver to ensure proper policies are in place, she said.

It is important the modification of photos is met head on because a historical magazine like The Beaver “prides itself” on accuracy, said Morrison.

“We’ll take this very seriously, absolutely. In this new digital age, there’s a whole bunch of new rules and procedures that the lines get, no pun intended, a little blurred.

“I think this gives us a great opportunity to remind us we have to go back and check our processes and make sure we’re being true to the spirit and integrity of the magazine,” she said.

Older photos with cracks, graininess and other blemishes are sometimes touched up before running in the magazine, but this practice — along with what happened to the Fort Selkirk photos — will now come under increased scrutiny, said Morrison.

“This is where I know the lines are becoming greyer and there’s a clear example that we’ve crossed some of the lines here,” she said.

“And for Fort Selkirk, it’s a great opportunity to get into two issues of The Beaver.”

Morrison added she won’t be surprised if readers point out the error before the next issue hits newsstands.

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