Critical Incidents in Journalism
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When: 05/24/2019
1:00 PM
Where: Washington Hilton Hotel
Washington, District of Columbia 
United States
Contact: Edson C. Tandoc Jr.

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OrganizersEdson C. Tandoc Jr., Nanyang Technological U, Joy Jenkins, Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism Ryan J. Thomas, University of Missouri Oscar Westlund, Oslo Metropolitan U

DescriptionJournalism‚ ongoing metamorphosis around the world has been marked by numerous critical incidents that have led journalists to publicly reflect on the practices and principles that dominate their profession. From the Gulf War in the 1990s, when journalists were forced to examine the implications of real-time reporting on journalistic autonomy and verification (Zelizer, 1992), to the gruesome attack on the editorial offices of the satirical French publication Charlie Hebdo in 2015 when news organizations invoked safety and solidary in determining how to cover the events (Jenkins & Tandoc, 2017a), critical incidents have provided an opportunity to examine how journalists construct the boundaries of appropriate practice and discern their public service roles in a continually changing field. Critical incidents refer to events or developments that lead journalists to reconsider ,the hows and whys of journalistic practice‚(Zelizer, 1992, p. 67). These events or developments serve as discursive opportunities for journalists to ensure the wellbeing of their interpretive community by reconsidering, rearticulating, and reinforcing their boundaries and authority. Critical incidents are important for interpretive communities such as journalism, as they force communities to reflect on their practices and values (Zelizer, 1993). Such critical incidents as the negotiation of journalistic identities, roles, and responsibilities in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in the US (Parameswaran, 2006); the phone hacking scandal that rocked the UK news media in 2011 (Thomas, 2012); the entry of BuzzFeed as a legitimate journalistic organization among legacy media (Tandoc & Jenkins, 2017); and Rolling Stones magazine‚ decision to feature a photo of the Boston Marathon bomber on its cover (Jenkins & Tandoc, 2017b) have led journalistic communities around the world to reflect on the boundaries of acceptable journalistic practice. By analysing journalistic discourse during such critical incidents, we begin to understand how journalists navigate the challenges to, and the contours of, their professional practice. These events have also engaged non-journalist stakeholders, most notably audience members, who have shared their perspectives on what they perceive as appropriate approaches to journalistic practice.