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.
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.
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.
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.
Journalism has been and remains one of the most important societal elements of America. Journalism connects people: it spreads its influence internationally, it determines what is most “important”, what research should be continued, and what stories contain. All of these concepts were, historically, implemented through the practice of gatekeeping. As a journalist, one has the power to distribute, receive, and comment upon information, and until recently, professional journalists were largely relied upon to deliver this information. However, with the rise of citizen journalism, the practice of “gatewatching” has grown all the more prevalent. Gatewatching is essentially the opposite of gatekeeping. Rather than controlling what is considered news and distributing it as they please, gatewatchers serve as produsers. They produce news, they access other news mediums, and decide and share what material is relevant to other users.
With the level of involvement that the people have, namely through social media, gatekeeping is becoming increasingly more difficult to uphold. Though it is still entirely present on many news networks, the social media has paved the way for citizen journalists to produce and discuss information at their own will. The power of gatewatchers is immeasurable: Citizen journalism is phenomenal in the sense that it has completely transformed the way in which we receive information and the credibility we place in the media. Axel Bruns explains the dynamic between gatekeeping and gatewatching with this chart.
One of the most prevalent and dynamic examples of gatewatching today is Wikipedia and WikiNews. A prime example of citizen journalism, Wikipedia users have access to a collaborative platform. Unlike sites like facebook and Twitter, the information does not necessary flow in a forum or entirely based upon opinion. Wikipedia is not, however, a gatewatching medium either. It is a medium that is accessible and collaborative. It gives citizens power over what is distributed, but also maintains a generally “neutral” policy. Forums are also present on Wikipedia, further allowing grounds for media to be covered, that wasn’t necessarily acknowledged by the press.
Wikinews, a citizen-journalism platform, is an element of Wikipedia. Though they work from a similar journalistic perspective, the articles are written more as a news article than an encyclopedia excerpt. Wikinews is free and composed of the insights and information of many people. Much information is gained from mainstream media, but through constant reinterpretation and public contribution, the articles synthesize relatively neutral information gathered from both citizen and professional journalists. Sites like Wikinews provide a platform where many sources of information are collectively available, free of any gatekeeping practices or bias. Though some argue that Wikipedia and Wikinews are not reputable news sources due to their lack of professional editing, the collaborative efforts of the people and the press usually come together well. With the amount of constant editing that goes into these articles, they are usually kept up-to-date, and accurate due to a variety of perspectives. Despite some doubt, Wikipedia still remains one of the most used news sources in our society.
Wikipedia and Wikinews both conflict with and reinforce gatekeeping vs. gatewatching practices. To a point, Wikipedia reinforces gatekeeping. Articles contain mainstream news information, and though it is often edited, the information isn’t necessarily based upon opinion. At the same time, bridging the gap between what is revealed by mainstream media and the stories in their entirety threaten the practice of gatekeeping. Wikipedia is widespread enough that most angles of a situation are covered, whereas mainstream mediums gain much power from controlling specific aspects. Wikipedia is free and provides the whole story, and professional journalists gain power from controlling certain aspects of the story. The widespread knowledge distributed on Wikipedia as well as its widely regarded reliability threaten journalists.
Wikipedia has been both widely and publicly criticized. Being objective as it is, Wikipedia actually has an encyclopedia article entitled Criticism of Wikipedia comprising widespread criticisms for the site. Many people cite concerns about how anyone can edit articles and reliability of sources. Other users are bothered by the rules, active editors, and administrative power that go into the articles to ensure their legitimacy. From a journalistic perspective, Librarian Philip Bradley told The Guardian, “The main problem is the lack of authority. With printed publications, the publishers have to ensure that their data is reliable, as their livelihood depends on it. But with something like this, all that goes out the window.” The debate style of Wikipedia has also been widely criticized and studied, due to concern of debate degenerating into “counterproductive squabbling”.
Wikipedia is a hugely important and hugely criticized example of gatewatching. Its collaborative power is massive, but also questioned by many. Many people, professors, and news professionals oppose Wikipedia, while many citizens are reliant on it. It has quite a lot of positives and drawbacks, but is exemplary of how influential citizen journalism has become.
Reddit is an entertainment and social-news website that boasts the title “The Front Page of The Internet.” It was founded in 2005 by Steve Huffman and Alexis Ohanian and was later sold off in 2006. It is a subsidiary of Advanced Publications, the 52nd largest private company in the U.S. and publisher of a number of newspapers. Users have the ability to post their own content to a number of “subreddits” that offer as receptacles for information. These subreddits often appeal to different subcultures of our society. Individuals with many different interests can almost always find something that they will enjoy. The content that is uploaded by users can be either “upvoted” or “downvoted” by other users on the site, as well as commented on and shared. What this had created is a funnel of information, relevant to your interests, that is easily accessible. The site embodies the true meaning of gatewatching because it is a sort of for the people, by the people type of institution that has a huge appeal to niche cultures.
Even though it is owned by one of the largest corporations in the United States, it is really a really a different animal than only other media-based website. There is a very limited amount of gatekeeping that occurs on the site; there is only a very small editorial process that is based on the regulations that users adhere to. For example, posted may only be removed from subreddits wherein their content is unacceptable. A pornographic picture would be removed from a subreddit about hiking, whereas a hiking picture would also be removed from a pornographic subreddit. There is no curbing of the average gatekeeping hot topics like dissenting political opinions, porn, shock material, fear mongering. There is simply an open forum wherein users can find just what they are looking for without any time of formal censorship.
I selected the guidelines from one of these particular subreddits, one for guitar enthusiasts (link here), as an example of what reddit expects from its users.
All users are expected and encouraged toread the Wiki/FAQ and know the posting rules before submitting a link/comment.
Please browse through the available“Link Flair” when submitting a thread. They’re laid out in an easily identifiable manner and should be applied to whatever topic you’re covering in your post.
Spam and self-advertising are not allowed in /r/Guitar. This means no linking to your blog/web site/YouTube channel without prior approval from the moderators. Please message the mods with any requests for such approval.
Do not link to outside retail sites in the Main Post. Be very descriptive in your post. Links in the discussions are OK but may be automatically removed by the subreddit’s spam filter.
Be kind and considerate – Any inflammatory, disrespectful, and/or hateful comments will result in a ban. We have a zero-tolerance policy regarding such comments/posts
No “Gear for Sale” posts – /r/Gear4Saleis an active music instrument gear sale/trade sub. All threads of this nature should be posted to that subreddit.
No link-dropping – The body of your post must contain more than just a link. Any posts in violation of this will be removed.
The reality of the reddit situation is that there is no gatekeeping on the part of the site other than the simple enforcement of their rules and regulations. You can search the web far and wide and not find any evidence of a reddit-related scandal involving censorship or withholding of information. The most you will find is the “scandal” subreddit that focuses on the celebrity and political scandals (link here), just another indication that the sit is a hotbed of gatewatching activity and dissemination of information. This could be why reddit is so highly favored as a news source. It’s users know that they can get the information that they want and they know just where on the site to find it, as well as the peace of mind that the site is not withholding anything from them. Here is a figure illustrating the social media networks most used for news in the U.S. (Research done by Pew-Research in 2013).
All in all, I would say that reddit deserves its monacher of being “the front page of the internet” as there are no other digital mediums that can distribute and display so much useful, obscure, and sometimes edgy material to those who desperately seek it.