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Journalists witnessing disaster: From the calculus of death to the injunction to care

By Simon Cottle


This article explores how journalist witnessing in the context of disaster reporting can both sustain as well as distance cosmopolitan views and outlooks. Attending to the professional accounts and testimonies of TV news correspondents and reporters involved in recent disaster reporting, a more complex picture emerges than hitherto of competing journalist practices, professional commitments and personal emotional investments. Journalists today often reproduce recognizable forms of disaster reporting that conform, following their own accounts, to a narrowly conceived, geo-politically informed and essentially amoral journalistic outlook—an entrenched “calculus of death” rooted in a particularistic national prism and inimical to cosmopolitan ideas and sentiments. But so also do their accounts and practices sometimes speak to a more expansive, universally inflected and morally infused journalist form of witnessing. Here journalists purposefully craft and inscribe their news reports with a thinly veiled but transparent “injunction to care”. This article addresses this seeming antinomy in the contemporary world of disaster reporting and considers how journalist practices may now be contributing to wider cultural currents of cosmopolitanism

Topics: H1, PN1990
Publisher: Routledge
Year: 2013
OAI identifier: oai:
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