Tag Archives: #gatekeeping

An Unpredictable Future

Media is constantly changing, evolving, and growing due to the influence of countless factors.  The media today is nothing like the media of ten years ago and the media ten years from now will be nothing like todays.  While knowing what the media of the future will look like is impossible we can look at how media has evolved up to this point, and how other major influences are currently evolving to make assumptions as to what media might look like in the future.

Technology, in my opinion, is the biggest influence on the media currently.  I believe this because of the power it gives media producers and consumers.  It is rapidly evolving, opening new possibilities for media consumption and distribution.  In recent years technology has given the former consumers the power to produce media and to gatewatch more effectively.  This has taken some of the power to gatekeep from the large media producers.  As technology evolves it will continue to change the dynamic between large media companies and the general public, hopefully for the better.

Over the past 50 years one of the most controversial and influential trends in media is the concentration of ownership.  We are down to so few companies owning most of the media that it is hard to imagine ownership getting any more concentrated.  This past week Comcast agreed to buy Time Warner Cable for $45 billion, formerly the nations two largest cable companies will soon be one.  As greedy companies like Comcast continue to buy out every competitor how long will it be until our Big 5 become consolidated into a single conglomerate?  While the formation of one mega conglomerate is very unlikely, even the consolidation from five to four major media companies would give each company a great increase of power and influence.

Technology and ownership concentration are just two of many influences on the future of media.  Technology has given more people access to information and the ability for the consumers of media to become producers of media.  With this new increase in information and power the consumers can be better informed.  This will hopefully lead to larger concern about ownership consolidation.  The media has a enormous effect on everyone viewing it, and so it is important for the viewers to have an interest in knowing the truth about that media.  As we move into the future it will be increasingly important to be active viewers.  Looking to the future we can only hope that everyone does their part in staying informed and keeping the media working for the people.

Wendy Davis and The People’s Filibuster

  Earlier this summer, Wendy Davis was in the news for participating in an eleven-hour long filibuster to block Senate Bill 5, a measure which included more restrictive abortion regulations for Texas. The Texas anti-abortion bill threatened to close nearly all of the abortion clinics in the state. Lawmakers had to vote on Senate Bill 5 before the special session’s end at 12 a.m. local time. However, more than 400 protesters halted the proceedings 15 minutes before the roll call could be completed with what they called “a people’s filibuster”. The crowd of demonstrators in the capitol cried “Shame! Shame!” when Davis’ filibuster was halted by Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, then the protesters roared after state Sen. Leticia Van De Putte asked, “At what point must a female senator raise her hand or her voice to be recognized over her male colleagues?” Their cries continued to echo inside the chamber — and over a livestream watched by thousands around the world — until after the midnight deadline passed. When Senator John Whitmire told Davis “This will not become a law”, the crowd of protesters gathered in the capitol cheered and began singing “The Eyes of Texas”, which is the alma mater of the University of Texas at Austin. After the filibuster, Davis was quoted saying, “Today was democracy in action. You all are the voices we were speaking for from the floor.”

This filibuster received a ton of press through average citizens; they were tweeting, posting on Facebook, sending videos and making this event viral and newsworthy. This is a direct example of gatekeeping. This was known as “A People’s Filibuster”, because the people were responsible for gaining support and spreading the news about the Bill and Wendy Davis’ commitment.  Gatewatching was involved with shares of pictures and statuses on Facebook, as well as through retweets on Twitter. The constant presence made this event a national story, and that was all possible because of individuals. Cecile Richards, President of Planned Parenthood, tweeted about Wendy Davis’ win, and her tweet received over 1,000 retweets. This is just one example of how people are gatekeeping and gatewatching. President Barack Obama also shared a video via twitter about Wendy Davis, and his tweet received over 17,000 retweets. According to Kate Sommers-Dawes of mashable.com, “As the tweets, Facebook posts, and Vine videos rolled in, Tuesday became a huge day for new media and, on a larger scale, democracy itself. People were engaged. In that moment, they didn’t have Rachel Maddow or Bill O’Reilly on 24-hour cable news to tell them what they should be up in arms about or how they should think about it. They took to the Internet, watching, commenting, and getting their hands dirty in the political discourse as history was made, in what otherwise would have been a largely ignored issue germane only to one state of many.”

I would say this article included gatekeeping and gatewatching practices, and not so much of gatecrashing. Gatecrashing doesn’t go through the typical channels of mainstream media gatekeeping, and I know this event was very mainstream and in the public eye. The forces of gatekeeping and gatewatching were mutually reinforcing. The people decided this event was important, and once enough people took to social media to share their thoughts and updates on the event, more people had access to it. Everyone started posting and sharing about Wendy Davis, making the people the journalists. Gatewatching occurred through the countless retweets and shares. What does this say about the people? It says that people are engaged and use social media to decide what they think about current events. It shows the world that social media has the power to unite people and ultimately create change.






Blunders in Citizen Journalism: the cost of gatecrashing in aftermath of Sandy Hook Massacre

With great power comes great responsibility. Jay Rosen was correct in describing citizen journalism as what occurs “[w]hen the people formerly known as the audience employ the press tools they have in their possession to inform one another,” and every day it grows more apparent that the paradigm of gatekeeping has shifted. Technological and social development have enabled us to employ those tools, and citizen journalism is here to stay.

However, with the sudden and drastic rise in its scope, exercise, and influence, we must remind ourselves that what we “report” as citizen journalists, especially when spoken in chorus with others, can have a very tangible and often serious effects.The propagation of misinformation  by acting citizen journalists in the immediate aftermath of the Sandy Hook massacre, which transcended the usual confines of Reddit news and eventually received coverage from traditional media sources, exemplifies the nascent power–and potential for misuse–of citizen journalism.

The massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in December of 2012 was, without a doubt, one of the most tragically heartbreaking events in recent American history.  The deaths of twenty first-graders and six school faculty, at the hands of a single disturbed gunman, stunned the nation and shook the collective soul of the American public to a degree of profundity eclipsing even the Columbine High School or Aurora theater shootings, and perhaps matched only by Timothy Mcveigh’s 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City.

With the nation reeling in despondence, confusion, and anger in the wake of the slaughter,  citizens around the country began a furious, self-accelerating collective search for answers. It was with intent to assist law-enforcement investigations and inform others that they coordinated online in the forums of news publications and on popular websites of user-submitted news and content, the most consequential of which would prove to be  Reddit.

While rampant speculation and countless conspiracy theories abounded across the online world,  one of these stories would gain enormous traction–eventually picked up by mainstream news outlets like CNN– and end up having very real consequences, damaging Reddit’s credibility (and by translation, that of citizen journalism) and nearly ruining the life of an innocent man.

In the first few days following the massacre, contributors to “the front page of the internet” mistakenly named the perpetrator of the shooting as Ryan Lanza, brother of the actual shooter Adam Lanza. Ryan, who was working and nowhere near New Town during the shootings, was named as the Sandy Hook shooter on mainstream national broadcast. Powerless to protest his innocence, Ryan was subjected to the unbridled fury of a grieving nation, receiving thousands of personal threats via social media platforms. Only after law enforcement exonerated Ryan did the media realize its mistake and momentum behind the gatecrashing finally begin to dissipate.

This debacle demonstrated just how quickly crowdsourced information can become “mob-sourced.” An even more frightening, or at the very least consequential realization from the incident was that citizen journalism, if driven by vehemence and recklessness, is capable–if even just for a day or two– of influencing and informing traditional media, reversing earlier conceptions of the relationship between the press and the public and turning the conventional conception of gatekeeping on its head.

That revelation is hugely consequential; with great power comes great responsibility. We now know that the power of citizen journalism can emulate that of the professional journalist; the question now is how do we get citizen journalism to emulate the professional journalist’s sense of responsibility, as well?

Wikileaks, Bradley Manning and Gatekeeping

Traditionally, Journalists have been the main (and only) source of information, but recently, journalism has been re-defined by who can filter and spread information. One of the most controversial cases of citizen participation within the media is of Bradley Manning who partook in the largest data security breach in the nation’s history when he sent classified documents to Wikileaks, the international, non-profit journalistic organization.


The controversy surrounding Manning’s case stems from the idea that he was being a whistleblower in order to inform the public of the truth. As Jeff Jarvis wrote in his article, journalism is no longer a profession, but rather a service and if this is the case, who can we trust to inform us?

Despite a shift in traditional media practices, the leaked files were still published in mainstream papers, therefore; reinforcing the traditional gatekeeping practices. It was the organizations like the Guardian and New York Times that continued to use the institutional norms. They did not have to publish the information that Bradley Manning had given to Wikileaks and these networks, but they chose to in order to inform the public; therefore, highlighting that despite new forms of participatory journalism, the networks and institutions still play a key role in gatekeeping. At the same time, what becomes controversial is that journalists do not have as much anonymity if they publish articles containing classified information and the government can punish them, as well as the news organizations.

While Wikileaks’ main purpose aims at bringing justice and truth to the world by publishing secret information, it has caused tension between various institutions and continues to create global controversies. Wikileaks motto is to enforce anonymity and wants journalists to be whistleblowers without being punished; however, the incident with Bradley Manning proved that anonymity is not always possible, and that publishing these documents may not be the best idea in spreading the truth.   

Overall, the controversy with Wikileaks is still ongoing and continues to reinforce the contrast between traditional and new media influences of gatekeeping and gatewatching. The underlying issues surrounding Wikileaks involve anonymity and trust because it raises the questions of whether the whistleblowers like Bradley Manning want to be praised for telling the truth or whether they want to be punished, and whether or not the governments will limit these freedoms of speech. Journalism is no longer defined by journalists and journalistic organizations informing the public, but by people like Bradley Manning or other citizen journalists who want to have a voice. Despite the transformation between traditional and new media influences and institutions, Jarvis argues that, “There is a role for the witness, the whistleblower, and the advocate in the ‘network fourth-estate.”

Sources: http://www.theguardian.com/global/2013/jul/11/who-is-journalist-bradley-manning-trial?utm_source=&utm_medium=&utm_campaign



Citizen Journalism and Mergers

Comcast acquired Time Warner Cable this past Thursday for $45 billion.  They are predicted, if all goes as planned and the merger is approved by the federal government, to serve 1 out of every 3 homes in the United States (CNN: Gross).  Many news stations have been covering the new acquisition, and users of social media sites definitely have put in their opinions without hesitation.

CNN’s article titled “What a Comcast-Time Warner deal could mean for you,” written yesterday, summarizes the buyout as well as analyzing the new horizons of possibility for Comcast and Time Warner customers.  One way they look at this subject is using sub-headers such as “Would my bill go up?” and “What about service quality?” that go into what the upcoming changes are to the customers of these service providers.  The author of this article definitely is a gatekeeper, in choosing what topics he finds are important to share with the public, like how the new acquisition will change their service options for the worse, or the better (if you were a Time Warner user).

Social media also allowed many people to vocalize their opinions of this merger.  As social media goes, I will focus on people’s reaction via Twitter.  On a website page called “People Generally Just Really Hate Their Cable Companies,” many consumers of Comcast and Time Warner Cable show their obvious hatred of the merger.  One tweet reads “Comcast / Time Warner merger is like a merger between swine flu and the bubonic plague” (Mashable: Gerhard Stiene) while another tweet reads “Prediction: the Comcast/Time Warner merger talks will be slow, freeze a bunch of times, and eventually have to be restarted.” (Mashable: Matt Goldich).  These tweets, along with the rest of the 23 that are provided on the website are proof that “gatecrashing” is at play here.  Gatecrashing is a phenomenon in which users find other channels, rather than the regular gatekeeping channels, to publicize certain news or opinions.  This website, Mashable.com, provides a place that is not a traditional news outlet for consumers to share what they really think of events that occur.

As goes for this article paired with this user-generated content-style website, I think that they are mutually reinforcing each other.  In the article, it tries to be as objective as possible, but leans towards the acquisition being somewhat problematic for consumers of the individual service providers.  The website contains 23 tweets that show those consumers’ hatred of the new merger.  The article states that, “[w]henever there are mergers of two large customer-service providers…we tend to see quite a few problems…We’d be surprised if a new hybrid Comcast-Time Warner doesn’t produce a lower level of customer satisfaction for a year or two” (CNN: David VanAmberg).  This view is widely held by all of the people who posted tweets concerning the new merger- they feel it will be a terrible endeavor as customers to either one of these service providers.  This viewpoint is definitely apparent in the tweets as well as a slight bias in the news article.

A challenge that is presented by the twitter feeds of multiple people is accuracy.  The tweets presented by unhappy customers of Time Warner and Comcast only show their opinions about the merger or their predictions, not the solid facts of the case like you see in the article on CNN. Though the viewpoints of the article and tweets somewhat coincide, the article on CNN is definitely more informative to consumers.

Sources Cited:

CNN: http://www.cnn.com/2014/02/13/tech/web/comcast-time-warner-consumer-impact/

Mashable: http://mashable.com/2014/02/13/comcast-time-warner-cable-tweets/

The Impact of Citizen Journalism

Citizen journalism has started to take over all forms of media. By using outlets such as Twitter, blogs, Facebook, and Four Square, ordinary people now have the power to spread information quickly and nearly effortlessly. While this impacts our culture in many ways, this new trend has completely changed the way we get our information. For example, important news stories and major events are often publicized or even revealed on Twitter. A perfect example is when an ordinary person, Jim Hanrahan, first broke the news about the airplane that landed in the Hudson River in 2008. Before any professional news source reported on the incredible landing, Hanrahan tweeted, “I just watched a plane crash in the hudson.” From there, obviously the story exploded over the news but this is just one of many examples where the news was first revealed on Twitter by a “citizen journalist”

This new way to report on and receive information is changing the face of news media as we know it. I think this type of journalism would definitely be categorized as “gatewatching” as well as “gatecrashing.” It is “gatewatching” because these citizen journalist are publishing or posting everything and anything, regardless of its “newsworthiness.” It is also “gatecrashing” because it engages in the sharing of content, which is extremely conducive to Twitter. “Gatekeepers,” on the other hand, typically are more active about what they publish and post. This category is reserved for the professional journalists and therefore does not really relate to this kind of media. These forces are mutually reinforcing because they can all work off each other. For example, with the airplane-landing story, it was broken on Twitter, where ordinary people as well as news sources then “shared” it constantly and finally, professional news sources wrote the proficient, full-length stories.

A major challenge dealing with gatewatching, gatecrashing, and gatekeeping is assuring accuracy. Like previously mentioned, citizen journalists can post and share whatever information they want, true or false. This information can spread like wild fire with little hope for quelling false rumors. This is a difficult challenge to overcome considering the vast resources available to the average person. Mostly, I think people have to be aware of where they are getting their information and always double and triple check facts.



The Phenomenon of Citizen Journalism

Journalism today is a profession that contains a number of different facets from the subject of your information, the way information is distributed, where it is distributed and even who does distributing.  Of course there are the major news media agencies like the New York Times, Fox, CNN, Huffington Post and so on but what about Twitter, Facebook, Reddit and Instagram?  As a whole, society now has access to not only a wide variety of information, but we also have the ability to distribute our own news while also influencing the major news agencies.  Although it may still be the norm to receive a formal education in journalism it no longer excludes the everyday Joe from doing his own reporting that may become the most viewed link on Twitter or Facebook.


Welcome to the phenomenon of citizen journalism.  Citizen journalism is when we as the audience begin to employ our own press tools to inform one another of events in a more personal and sometimes immediate way.  For many it is no longer about where the information came from but whether it is relevant to your current situation and interests.  We have the ability to talk about and share (to a certain extent) whatever information we would like and we are able to so no matter where we are through the advancement of technology. Cell phones and apps have given us access to distributing information wherever and whenever we would like with 24/7 audiences coverage.  Allowing us to manipulate, uncover or cover any type of news we would like.

Although a lot has changed in journalism, gatekeeping still exists but not at the level it once did.  Journalists may still be able to filter what they discuss within their news outlet but they are no longer society’s only source of information.  If we are unable to get what we want through the news media then we now have the option of finding the information on a blog, Twitter or Facebook.  Many major news agencies have accepted and may even value the citizen journalist.  Today the majority of news agencies even provide citizen journalist with their own news sections: CNN iReport, Fox uReport, and Citizen Journalist on NBC.  During the Colorado Springs wildfire many locals were capturing videos, photos and information, then in return distributing the information to the major news medias.  For agencies like CNN, Fox and NBC the citizen journalist is an easy and free source.


We may have the ability to report what we feel is news worthy but journalists have not lost control of the gate entirely.  What has now taken affect within society is gatewatching.  We are able to filter and curate the news and information that passes before us by identifying what is of most relevance to our own personal interests.  Through the use of social media we are able to like and follow the information that we find most interesting.  Through this process of picking and choosing we have created another gate in the search for newsworthy material.  The difference is we control this gate.  If during the Olympics I decide I want my Twitter account to be full of information covering partner ice-skating I have that power.  The interesting factor is that even though I am able to gather all this information elsewhere, once I become interested in a topic I still go to those major news agencies or turn on the T.V to get the full story.  These forces may be reinforcing each other through a type of compare and contrast between personal and corporate view but in the end there is still the question of credibility.  News agencies have professional training and immense resource that the average Twitter enthusiast probably does not have the same access to.  So yes, the citizen journalist is influencing and changing the ways we are able to obtain information but the professional journalist still maintain a larger amount of resources and therefore a higher degree of credibility.  

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