By: Emily Judge
Many people have been researching gatekeeping for many years. It started back with White in 1950. According to the Gatekeeping Theory in Communication Research Trends, “he applied the term gatekeeping and the theory to the news industry, since its structure of reporters and editors clearly illustrated the filtering process through which information passed before it reached an audience. The theory proved robust and helpful for decades.”
Many different people started applying this theory to their own research. For example Gans in 1979 applied the term and theory to the national news, both broadcast and print, right after the Watergate scandal. Through the research of participant observation of four major news media, this ended up offering a detailed description on how the news media actually worked. Because of this future researchers took a more sociological approach to the communication questions.
When dealing with politics you really need to think clearly about the way you communicate to your voters. But also what to gatekeep for them. According to Gatekeeping Theory from Social Fields to Social Networks, “the World Wide Web has presented new challenges to these traditional models of gatekeeping, where raw content passes uni-directionally through a gate manned by journalists before reaching the reading public. The ability of users to create and disseminate their own content has uprooted and inverted the roles of gatekeeper and gated.” In politics these new challenges might consist of the many people that now gatekeep the presidential poles and the stories that are let out during the race for president. Another challenge might be is the amount of truth that these “gatekeeped” stories hold. Just to show you the process of gatekeeping and how complicated it could get, here is an example:
According to the University of Twente’s article Gatekeeping, “Kurt Lewin was apparently the first one to use the term “gatekeeping,” which he used to describe a wife or mother as the person who decides which foods end up on the family’s dinner table. (Lewin, 1947). The gatekeeper is the person who decides what shall pass through each gate section, of which, in any process, there are several. Although he applied it originally to the food chain, he then added that the gating process can include a news item winding through communication channels in a group. This is the point from which most gatekeeper studies in communication are launched.”
Especially during the political race for presidency, “the gatekeeper’s choices are a complex web of influences, preferences, motives and common values. Gatekeeping is inevitable and in some circumstances it can be useful. Gatekeeping can also be dangerous, since it can lead to an abuse of power by deciding what information to discard and what to let pass” (UTwente). Gatekeeping can especially be dangerous when rumors get out about a specific candidate. Different candidates have different approaches when this happens. For example, Trump decides to take them head on and use them to his advantage. For someone like Trump this seems to be working well, but not all candidates are as lucky.
Trump uses social media and the younger group of voters to help his case. He talks in understandable ways and uses terms like good and they did well. Not words like, extravagant and they did exceptional. Trump’s gatekeepers help him with his speeches so that they are framed around what the younger group of voters will understand and want. His slogan is “let’s make America great again!” This is an easy slogan for people to remember and for people to understand; its basic and to the point.
I found an article that was very interesting and explores Conceptualizing Gatekeeping in the Digital Era. “The objective of this article is to emphasize the complexity of the news production process, the convergence and divergence of blogging from traditional journalism, the relationship of citizens emerging as producers of journalism, the role of journalism in the new media landscape, and the growing influence of blogs on users. The overall results provide strong evidence for the dynamics and potential of online citizen journalism, the creativity of citizen journalists, the contemporary networked news environment, the emergence of hybrid forms of media work and content production, and the relevance of fact-seeking in journalism.”
Lewis et al. claim that in the online environment there is a greater expectation for end-user engagement with and control over content. Politicians and the candidates running for president use this to their advantage through social media and live broadcasts. This will increase their chances of end-user engagement and will therefore lead to more votes.
As talked about in all three blog posts, gatekeeping is a huge part of politics. Gatekeepers are extremely important when it comes to the presidential debate because not only do they gatekeep the bad things from the voters, they gatekeep the good things in order to turn them in their favor. Not only does the race for presidency NEED gatekeepers, but politics in general need gatekeepers. When the president is finally chosen, they will then become one of the gatekeepers of America. Until working on this project, I never really knew how much gatekeepers really did, but their job is huge! Without gatekeepers it would be very hard to decipher what was right or wrong and true or false. Hopefully these few blog posts have helped you to better understand the job of a gatekeeper as well!