When news media turn to citizen-generated images of war
This study takes the context of the Syrian war and media blackout as a pertinent case to investigate issues of transparency and graphicness when mainstream news media incorporate citizen-generated images. More specifically, we investigate (1) relative proportions of citizen and professional images used by news media through time; (2) source references, and indications of the non-professional origin of images; and (3) topic and explicitness of the depictions provided by citizens versus professionals. In order to do so, we conducted a systematic-quantifying content analysis of the visual coverage of the Syrian war in three Flemish mainstream news media between March 2011 and December 2012 (N = 768). Citizen-generated images prove to be an invaluable source for traditional news media exceeding the urgency of the initial period. Moreover, it seems that professional and citizen imagery fulfill a complementary role in representing different visual framings of (the Syrian) war. Yet the study also confirms non-professional imagery to be more graphic, and news media to be lacking in transparency.