Throughout the history of journalism, gatekeeping has been a very prevalent process. This process is how information is filtered for dissemination, whether it be for publication, broadcasting, the Internet, etc. Gatekeeping can occur at all levels of the media structure. For example, a reporter deciding when sources chosen to include in a story. Gatekeeping can also be an act by an individual, such as someone deciding what information to include in an email or a blog. Throughout time, gatekeeping has definitely become increasingly more difficult. There is declining control over information flows. One of the factors affecting the difficulty is gatewatching, which is a very important concept within citizen journalism. Gatewatchers are people who curate and evaluate the existing news. These people have direct communication between newsmakers and news users.
There are numerous examples of websites for citizen journalists such as Wikipedia, Blottr, Now Public, etc. One that I think shows eccentric examples of gatekeeping and gatewatching is CNN’s citizen journalism iReport. This initiative allows people from all around the globe to contribute pictures and video of breaking news stories. Unlike a traditional news station, such as CNN, iReport encourages regular citizens to submit stories, photos, and videos related to any breaking news. What is different about iReport is that these submissions are not edited, fact-checked, or screened.
This fairly new (as of 2006) initiative became extremely successful because it gave citizens the opportunity to report on events as they experienced them and became “Gatewatchers” themselves. For example, before iReport was launched, it was difficult to obtain pictures, videos, and stories in the moments after the events had occurred. The tsunami caused by the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and the 2005 London bombings were two huge events where it was difficult for professional journalists to obtain coverage of these tragedy’s as they happened. Here is a link to part of the initial iReport of the London bombings
iReport is definitely seen as a resolution to this problem and has been successful since. For example, in 2008, iReport generated controversy for a false report about Steve Job’s health and this caused Apple’s stock to temporarily drop. This shows how influential citizen journalism has become and how difficult it is to gatekeep these days.
An important quote by Nicholas Lemann indicated “what proponents of internet journalism, like iReport are fighting against is ‘journalism in the hands of an enthroned few, who speak in a voice of phony, unearned authority to the passive masses.’ While some might agree with this statement, there is a reason for the existence of tools such as iReport; and in today’s face-paced world, there is a need for it too.”
Although iReport has been successful and has been a resolution for obtaining immediate important information, it also possesses some challenges. iReport often offers no pay to contributors including photo and video contributions. These users are granted copyright to their work but they are often forced to relinquish control of who uses their work and where their images are shown. This definitely is a drawback for the contributors and may make them not want to hand over their work but it helps the news stations use this info in the way they please. iReport demonstrates that gatewatching and gatekeeping can be conflicting. The citizen journalists of iReport are the gatewatchers but the information given, such as the Steve Jobs example, can sometimes be falsely portrayed and it is becoming more and more difficult for the gatekeepers to do their jobs, making these two conflict one another.