Media & Politics


Gatekeeping: Emily Judge

Media Effects and Politics

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Who Will Be Our Newest Gatekeeper?

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.”

d1ab0fe8-2df8-4f31-9535-5053801bbd90_10001Lewis 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!


Gatekeeping Theory

Gatekeeping Theory from Social Fields to Social Networks


Conceptualizing Gatekeeping in the Digital Era.

Photo Sources:

Gatekeeping Graph

Young Trump Voters

Live Broadcast

Who Can You Trust?

By: Emily Judge

Back again for week two and gatekeeping is constantly hidden within the everyday news. Just to recap, according to The Gatekeeping Function: Distributions of Information in Media and the Real World gatekeeping is the process by which the billions of messages that are available in the world get cut down and transformed into the hundreds of messages that reach a given person on a given day.

“There has been many discussions in both academic and popular outlets, of whether there are liberal or conservative biases in news media. It has been found that the popular view is that media has tended to provide more of a liberal view of both nation and world events. If a liberal bias does exist, it may be true that a negativity bias in the NYT will be greater during Republican administrations. Bias is typically investigated in terms of a bias towards coverage of one party or another, for instance, or as a tendency to focus on bad news about one party and good news about another” (Soroka, 522).

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“There is an alternative hypothesis to be drawn from the literature on the economy and government popularity, namely, what Carlsen (2000) has referred to as the the ‘‘salient goal hypothesis,’’ whereby each party is held accountable on its most salient (economic) dimension: unemployment for Democrats and inflation for Republicans (as in Powell and Whitten 1993).21 Media, like voters, may be more critical of Democrats on unemployment and more critical of Republicans on inflation.” (Soroka, 523).

On a completely unrelated note, an article called,  Gatekeepers to the Famous and the Powerful by Patricia Brown, was published int he NY times in 1991. Although 1991 seems like forever ago, this article interviews Rose Gross-Marino and discusses “her credo, “trying to be nice when people are obnoxious,” the mission of an unsung but quintessentially New York occupation: personal assistant to someone whom everyone is trying to get to. As unbudgeable as the lions in front of the New York Public Library, and at times just as stony, Ms. Marino and her cohorts, who seem to have everything but a union, are diplomats, gatekeepers and divine masters of the brushoff” (NY Times).

“Brown then goes on to talk about how “on the 26th floor of Trump Tower, Norma Foederer, who is the assistant to Donald J. Trump and is considered by many to be the epitome of the apogee of personal assistanthood, is fielding requests for her boss, something she does daily” (NY Times).

crop_90Donald Trump 1989 Savvy Cover crop1448396761.jpg

Each day Ms. Foederer, who is a former foreign service political officer and has broad executive responsibilities (some suspect she runs the company), clips newspaper articles in which Donald Trump’s name appears. Page Six of The New York Post doesn’t circulate. It goes directly to Mr. Trump. Behind her desk is a video player and a stack of tapes: the opening of Wollman Rink, a Mike Tyson fight and an episode of “Designing Women” in which Marla Maples was the guest star. When a visitor spied that tape, Ms. Foederer whisked it away.”The word loyalty is important,” her boss said of his assistant of 10 years. “She’s a cool cucumber. Norma is a case study in what this position should be” (NY Times).

So as you can see, gatekeepers can also come in all different shapes and sizes, including assistants! Although this article is from 1991, I think it really shows how much work assistants do (especially political leader’s assistants) when it comes to gatekeeping their lives. I can only imagine the amount of work Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton’s assistants have to do in order to help gatekeep their lives.  When it comes to a personal assistant loyalty is vital. It is so important to be able to count on this person to protect you and your reputation, but especially for those people running for president. Within elections there are various rumors and hateful things spread around the news, but you need to know that someone will have your back to catch those rumors and crush them before they grow larger.


Within politics, Twitter is huge. Although you can only write as much as 140 characters will let you, it is an easy way to state an idea or an opinion and get it out there quickly. According to Gatekeeping Twitter: message diffusion in political hashtags “Twitter is a free microblogging service that allows users to publish short messages, known as tweets, in a variety of ways. Users can post their tweets on the Twitter website or send SMS text-messages directly from their cell phones. Because Twitter enables realtime propagation of information to any number of users, the platform is an ideal environment for the dissemination of breaking news directly from the news source and/or from the geographical point of interest.”


Twitter has a strong relationship with its audience, depending on the amount of followers a certain person has, this will decide how many retweets or favorites this specific tweet will receive. “This is again the concept of gatekeeping based on the principal that network topology determines message diffusion” (Bastos, 263). Bastos, Raimundo, and Travitski tested this hypothesis with a dataset of Twitter political hashtags. “Political issues tend to be more persistent than other topics, thus assuring that once the messages goes through the gate (once it goes viral), it remains in time and space” (Bastos, 263).

According to Romero et al. (2011), political hashtags are particularly persistent, with repeated exposures continuing to have large relative effects on adoption. The persistence has a significantly larger value than the average – in other words, successive exposures to a political hashtag have an unusually large effect relative to the peak. Once political hashtags become Trending Topics they tend to spread through the network in a way that corresponds with the complex contagion principle, which maintains that repeated exposures to an idea are of vital importance when the idea is controversial or contentious.

Especially in politics, it is hard to know who to trust or to trust anyone at all! But with the trust of our personal assistants and or gatekeepers of the world, we can power through the drama and rumors the way Donald Trump would; take it head on and use it to your advantage. That’s all for now, check back next Wednesday for a new article on gatekeeping, media and politics!


The Gatekeeping Function: Distributions of Information in Media and the Real World

Gatekeepers to the Famous and the Powerful 

Gatekeeping Twitter: message diffusion in political hashtags

Photo Credits:


Trump and Assistants

Political Twitter

Every Tweet Counts

Gatekeeping and the Media

By: Emily Judge

Many of you may ask what is gatekeeping? And who are Gatekeepers? Here are a few facts that might help you better understand the process of gatekeeping and gatekeepers.

  • Gatekeepers are “media people who make judgements on what most merits inclusion in what is sent to networks, stations, and web site operators” (Vivian, 48).
  • “Gatekeepers are the editors who decide what make it through their gates and in what form” (Vivian, 48).
  • “Gatekeeping is an unavoidable function in mass communication because there is neither time nor space for all the messages that might be passed through the process” (Vivian, 48).

Not everything in the news can be processed and published, there is just too much news out there, this is what gatekeepers are for. Their job is to exercise news judgement, deciding what most deserves to be told and how. For lack of better words, they decide what to let out and what to not let out of the gate.

Gatekeeping in politics can be harder than any other subject when trying to decide what to let out and what to keep in the gates. Gatekeeping can be a creative force and trimming a news story can add potency. “Most gatekeepers are invisible to the news audience, working behind the scenes and making crucial decisions in near anonymity on how the world will be portrayed in the evening newscast, the latest blog posting and frequent web site updates” (Vivian, 217).

For example, in the article Gatekeepers: keeping genocide out of the public eye Kelly Parr discusses the coverage of Darfur over the span of 3 major TV networks. According to “Darfur: coverage of a genocide by three major US TV networks on their evening news” an article by Chinedu Eke, a study conducted by the American Progress Action Fund (APAF) found these results:

  • In 2004 ABC, CBS and NBC devoted roughly 24,900 mins to news
  • The same year, ABC, CBS, and NBC aired only 26 mins total on the genocide
    • ABC: 18 mins to Darfur
    • CBS: 3 mins to Darfur
    • NBC: 5 mins to Darfur

Kelly Parr then goes on to talk about the coverage of Martha Stewarts legal problems. It turns out that this issue received 130 mins of news coverage by these 3 networks. She goes on to explain that more people knew about Martha Stewart then they did the genocide.

When it comes to news coverage and what is chosen to be let out of the gates, the gatekeepers must be smart. Right now, we are lucky enough to be in the middle of an election so the news is swamped with political issues. Every channel you turn to, there is something about the debate and our future president. Overall political issues are very interesting but gatekeepers must choose wisely when deciding what to publish. Political issues can easily be hearsay and are not always 100% the truth when they were reported. Within my next two articles I will show examples of these few things stated above, thats all for now! Come back next week for some more information on Media and Politics!


Gatekeepers: keeping genocide out of the public eye

Darfur: coverage of a genocide by three major US TV networks on their evening news


Gatekeeping Image

The Media of Mass Communication by John Vivian 

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