On 1 January 2009, Oscar Grant was shot and killed in a subway station by Bay Area Rail
Transit officers. This event was recorded by several passengers on their cellphones and
later uploaded to the video-sharing website YouTube. The videos generated significant
protests among online and offline communities, and were eventually used as evidence in
the ensuing trial. This study employed a critical thematic analysis to examine audience
responses to this act of citizen journalism on YouTube. Results indicated that although
some viewers critiqued the video quality and the cameraperson’s passivity, several
supportive comments praised the cameraperson’s presence of mind and courage.
Furthermore, some viewers called for resistance and retaliation, while others advocated
a more prudent response. We argue that these findings necessitate a reconceptualization
of traditional notions of the guard-dog media and the public sphere to accommodate
new media technologies.