The Siren Song of Gatekeeping

For more than a century, journalists in professional news organizations have prized their gatekeeping role. Generally, audiences have been grateful for this gatekeeping — it means they can put less effort into figuring out what’s happening, what matters, and what to believe.

Over at BuzzMachine today, Jeff Jarvis threw down this gauntlet: Might the gatekeeping role of news organizations be a type of “spin” that can produce distortion and hubris?

In “Gatekeepers v. Amateurs,” he writes: “The problem with professionalism is that it’s all about separation from the public: a belief that you can manipulate them because they know less than you do. That’s called spin. And so, I hope that the movement of amatuerism may be an antidote to professional gatekeeping. No, we bloggers don’t have all the tools and access that the pros have. But we have the ability to ask questions and keep pressure on.”

This is a thorny issue to consider — partially because it threatens to topple the pedastel of professional journalism and undermine the “brand value” of mainstream news organizations.

Personally, I treasure all the good work done daily by professional reporters and editors. I’d never want to devalue it. Still, I think it’s more important to value good work because it’s good, not because it’s produced by a well-known “brand name.” Independents, upstarts, and amateurs also can make valuable contributions to news, investigation, and analysis.

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