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Visual truths of citizen reportage: four research problematics

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In striving to better understand issues associated with citizen contributions to newsmaking in crisis situations, this article identifies and elaborates four specific research problematics – bearing witness, technologies of truth-telling, mediating visualities and affectivities of othering – in order to recast more familiar modes of enquiry. Specifically, it provides an alternative heuristic to theorize the journalistic mediation of citizen imagery, and the myriad ways this process of negotiation maintains, repairs and at times disrupts the interstices of professional–amateur boundaries. Rather than centring analysis on how crisis events highlight change, it discerns the basis for a critical tracing of the material configurations and contingencies shaping journalistic imperatives towards generating visually truthful reportage. In seeking to move debates about how best to enliven digital journalism's future beyond the polarities of new media advocacy and criticism alike, we emphasize the importance of developing a collaborative, co-operative ethos of connectivity between journalists as citizens and citizens as journalists. Accordingly, each proposed problematic is examined in a manner alert to pinpointing its prospective value for theory-building, and in so doing elucidating its potential utility for scholarship in the years ahead.
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Keywords: citizen journalism; crisis reporting; digital imagery; social media; visual communication; witnessing

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: School of Journalism, Media and Cultural Studies, Cardiff University, Bute Building, King Edward VII Avenue, Cardiff, CF10 3NB, UK 2: Department of Communication & Psychology, Aalborg University, Copenhagen, A.C. Mayers Vænge, 2450, Copenhagen, SV, Denmark

Publication date: November 2, 2015

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