Monday, November 19, 2007

Gatekeepers VS. Bloggers: Checks and Balances for the Next Generation?

Welcome to today’s media, where old news is what happened this morning, bloggers are reporters, and commentators are anyone with an opinion and access to a computer. We are urged to embrace the new era of technology, but at what cost? BU addressed these concerns and more at their “New Media and the Marketplace of Ideas Conference” in late October.

The event featured many accomplished speakers across the communications field including keynoter Markos Moulitsas of The Daily Kos and Principle Speakers, Gigi Sohn, president, Public Knowledge; Sherrese Smith, deputy general counsel, The WashingtonPost.Newsweek Interactive; and Mark Jurkowitz, associate director, Project for Excellence in Journalism.

The conference was split into three breakout sessions – Intellectual Property, The Blogosphere, and Gatekeeping in the New Media Environment – which together spanned the most prevalent issues plaguing the media in the wake of new technology trends like blogging, social networking sites, Facebook and MySpace, and the online video site, YouTube.

Encompassing information provided in the first two sessions, the third session lent itself to a debate between media gatekeepers and the ever-rebellious bloggers. However, as Mark Jurkowitz was quick to point out, “The gate is recently more porous in light of the Internet.” It’s true, the gate has seen sturdier days, but security comes at a price, one which Markos Moulitsas was not willing to pay. He founded The Daily Kos in May 2002, when “a war-crazed administration suppressed all dissent as unpatriotic and treasonous.” It was important for him to regain the freedoms he felt once defined this country and to voice his cause, even if it seemed as though the majority of people had cut off their ears. In just five years, the Daily Kos has become one of the most highly trafficked sites, bringing in 600,000 daily visits.

The question then becomes, in the age of new technology who will the new gatekeepers become? According to Moulitsas, gatekeepers cannot exist amongst bloggers because there is always someone to push against the grain and question whoever deems himself or herself the authority. However, traditional gatekeepers still exist and, because they perform key functions – especially in monitoring and distributing mainstream media –probably always will.

It stands to reason that traditional gatekeepers and bloggers will come to serve as the media’s own form of checks and balances. This way, both parties are allowed to flourish by finding joint existence in the separation of their powers, as opposed to the tyranny of either.

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