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  • Writer's pictureRochelle Roye

Are Gatekeepers in Mass Media Dangerous?

Updated: Feb 8, 2021

In the literal sense of the word, a ‘gatekeeper’ is someone who decides what goes through the gate and what does not. Gatekeepers in mass media play a similar role. They determine what we hear, read, and see, and what we do not.

Gatekeepers filter information. Does this make them dangerous? In my opinion, it would be more accurate to say that they are the driving force behind what the public receives as news. Journalists at all levels can be gatekeepers; these include reporters and editors. The owners of media houses can also be gatekeepers.

Gatekeepers have a tremendous influence on what we see. Gatekeepers help to curve perceptions, as we only see what gatekeepers want us to see and we only know what gatekeepers want us to know. Some may believe that this is what makes gatekeepers dangerous: the fact that they get to decide what is newsworthy; the fact that they have the authority to accept some stories as news and to reject others. However, I believe that gatekeepers on a whole, try to safeguard us from information they feel will be of harm to us; as the saying goes, “it is what we know that hurts us.”

Some argue that gatekeepers are dangerous because they have the power to downplay or emphasize certain aspects of the news. However, one must understand that “it is impossible to transmit something without in some fashion shaping it” (Social Meanings of News, 58). One must also realize that shaping information and corrupting it, is not synonymous. Gatekeepers are there to transform information, not to corrupt it.

The public need gatekeepers to filter the hordes of information that overwhelms us daily. According to Berkowitz (Social Meanings of News, 57), gatekeeping helps to cut down the billions of messages that reaches us on a given day. Gatekeepers are needed to condense information for a news program or a newspaper. Therefore, gatekeepers should not be viewed as dangerous. They should instead be seen as vital, because they cut down unnecessary information to give us what is useful and relevant.


Gatekeepers in mass media are not dangerous. While gatekeepers shape the content of news, this is necessary to fit the mass of information received daily, in a newspaper with finite pages or a news program with a time limit. Gatekeepers also prevent chaos in the newsroom, since they act as mediators, deciding what is newsworthy and what is not.

REFERENCE

Berkowitz, Daniel A. Social Meanings of News: Thousand Oaks, Calif: Sage Publications, 1997. Print.

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