Journal Article

An Ethics of (Not) Showing: Citizen witnessing, Journalism and Visualizations of a Terror Attack


Maria Nilsson


This paper explores how news organizations visualize crises in a digital media ecology shaped by citizen witnessing and widespread image circulation on social media. Empirically, the paper draws on the events of April 7, 2017 in Stockholm when a hijacked truck plowed into crowds, killing five and injuring several others. The study is informed by theoretical perspectives and research on citizen photojournalism and witnessing, and examines the function of visual citizen contributions, degrees of explicitness in visual coverage and the impact of proximity on visualizations of crises. Qualitative analyses of visual content and text in digital and print editions of four Swedish newspapers showed both enhancing and featured positioning of visual eyewitness contributions from the public, few examples of explicit imagery, and journalistic commentary foregrounding ethical dimensions of showing and seeing. Based on the findings, the author considers journalism’s civic response as a strategy for staking a claim to credibility and ethics at a moment when the journalistic gatekeeping position is called into question.

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About the Author

Maria Nilsson

Associate Professor and Director of Studies for Journalism with an international research and teaching background and previous journalism experience. B. Sc in Social Work from Stockholm University, Ph. D. (Media and Communication Studies), M. F. ... Read more


Nilsson, M. (2019). An Ethics of (Not) Showing: Citizen witnessing, Journalism and Visualizations of a Terror Attack. Journalism Practice. Available at: [Accessed 11 Aug. 2022]. doi: