Gatekeeping is information that gets either watered down or built up and sent out to the general public through any media outlet. Those media outlets include the radio, T.V, or newspaper. Gatekeeping can occur in many different ways but two of the most popular are through the news reporter or the editor. The news reporter can decide which sources he decides to publish while the editor has the ability to chose which news stories will be published. There are many ways for gatekeeping to take place now and many examples of when it has occurred in the past.
One of those examples that really caught my attention was an event that started with the attacks on our nation on September 11, 2001. Pat Tillman was an NFL Pro-Bowl linebacker with the Arizona Cardinals the day those heinous events took place. Eight months after that horrific day Pat Tillman was a United States Army Ranger. On April 22, 2004, he was killed in combat in Afghanistan. At first the military claimed Tillman died fighting the Taliban and earned a Silver Star in his last action. This was the story that was first reported. Tillman was a poster boy for the government’s involvement in the war. They wanted to make him a hero. Then the real story came out, after much pressure from his family, that there was a “friendly fire” incident.
As this particular example shows, what occurred in reality and what was reported to the public in the media were very different. The reporters were doing their job when they were reporting the “hero” story. There were editors who knew the truth but felt it would damage the governments’ position in the war, the military’s ability to recruit young people to join and certainly the public support. So to protect all these entities, the truth was covered up. As typically happens these days, the real story eventually makes it’s way to mainstream media and gets reported. Even then, there are questions about the new version of the story. Was Pat Tillman’s death really caused by friendly fire? If the truth was withheld before is the truth being told now? All of this is a strong example of gatekeeping.
As one can see, the people who control what is reported can affect many aspects of a story. Even to the point of the public questioning the integrity of the highest level of the government. The gatekeepers lead us to think and believe what they want us to think and believe, sometimes when the truth may be tampered with. The reporters and editors have the ability to control beliefs of the public and this example is one that upset me when I heard the truth.