Citizen Witnessing: Revisioning Journalism in Times of Crisis
April 2013, Polity
What role can the ordinary citizen perform in news reporting? This question goes to the heart of current debates about citizen journalism, one of the most challenging issues confronting the news media today.
In this timely and provocative book, Stuart Allan introduces the key concept of ‘citizen witnessing’ in order to rethink familiar assumptions underlying traditional distinctions between the ‘amateur’ and the ‘professional’ journalist. Particular attention is focused on the spontaneous actions of ordinary people – caught-up in crisis events transpiring around them – who feel compelled to participate in the making of news. In bearing witness to what they see, they engage in unique forms of journalistic activity, generating firsthand reportage – eyewitness accounts, video footage, digital photographs, Tweets, blog posts – frequently making a vital contribution to news coverage.
Drawing on a wide range of examples to illustrate his argument, Allan considers citizen witnessing as a public service, showing how it can help to reinvigorate journalism’s responsibilities within democratic cultures. This book is required reading for all students of journalism, digital media and society.
Acknowledgements page vi
1 'Accidental Journalism' 1
2 The Journalist as Professional Observer 26
3 Bearing Witness, Making News 56
4 Witnessing Crises in a Digital Era 92
5 News, Civic Protest and Social Networking 120
6 WikiLeaks: Citizen as Journalist, Journalist as Citizen 152
7 'The Global Village of Images' 174
- Timely book that examines the role of the ordinary citizen in news reporting
- A provocative work that reconsiders the traditional distinctions between ‘amateur’ and ‘professional’ journalists
- Draws on wide-ranging, engaging examples to demonstrate how ordinary citizens participate in the making of news
- The author argues that citizen witnessing can reinvigorate journalism’s responsibilities within democratic cultures
"This combination of historic contextualization, theoretical
analysis, empirical research, and news case studies (citizen and
journalist) makes what could have been an impenetrable academic
text, a lively, inspiring, and thoughtful read accessible to
scholars and students alike."
Harvard’s International Journal of Press / Politics
"It’s difficult to find fault with (this) book. I hope that it will change the way academics and the wider populous use the various terms associated with what has generally been labelled or mislabelled as citizen journalism and that the term citizen witnessing, as Allan conceptualises it, takes hold."
"Drawing on a wide range of relevant work, Allan shrewdly rethinks the idea of the “citizen journalist” by examining the “journalist as citizen” as well as the “citizen as accidental journalist”. Allan’s intelligent analysis of both classic and bang-up-to-date examples makes this a key contribution to understanding how journalism should best develop."
John Ellis, Royal Holloway, University of London
"An important book that moves the current debate about the future of journalism into a new domain. A must-read for journalism scholars, students and practitioners alike."
Pacific Journalism Review
'Stuart Allan reminds us "'war zones’ are also people’s homes." He critically documents how mobile and digital tools in the hands of billions around the world have opened up a radicalizing public service of “citizen witnessing” – a phenomenon that is invigorating journalism and forcing democratic (and not so democratic) institutions to greater accountability and responsibility.'
Susan Moeller, University of Maryland
'Allan's Citizen Witnessing invites readers to think more
deeply about the everyday materialities that define acts of citizen
journalism in times of crisis, the very real risks and losses it
can entail, and the reasons why we will continue to rely on the
courage of its documentarians, and the contingencies of
happenstance they face, in the years to come. Citizen
Witnessing will be essential reading in journalism studies and
Carrie Rentschler, McGill University