The newsroom is no longer a safe zone – assessing the affective impact of graphic user-generated images on journalists working with social media

Authors: Jukes, S.

Start date: 23 March 2016

Ever since the terror attacks of Sept. 11, user-generated images and video have dominated news media. Sometimes passers-by have captured graphic images of violence, from the London street killing of drummer Rigby to slaughter on the streets of Paris. At other times extremists have used social media to distribute their message using what have become labelled ‘perpetrator images.’ Much has been written about the blurring of lines between professional journalists and citizen journalists and the emotive impact of gruesome images on the consumers of news. But the affective impact of these images on the journalists handing them, in what used to be thought of as the safety of the newsroom, has gone largely unnoticed. This paper examines the first studies now emerging into the traumatic impact of graphic content on the newsroom and, through a series of interviews with those working on social media ‘hubs’, explores the lived experience of journalists sifting through a torrent of material each day. The paper also looks at measures now being introduced to mitigate the impact on journalists handling graphic material and to minimise any affective contagion into other areas of the news production environment.

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