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Archive for April 30th, 2012

The gatekeeper days of journalism were fun. But they’re over. And they weren’t as good as we remember them.

In a Facebook discussion today, Arkansas State journalism professor Jack Zibluk wrote, “By abandoning the gatekeeper role, I believe you are abandoning the profession.”

I replied: “Jack, no one abandoned the gatekeeper role. It became irrelevant when the fences blew away.”

Jack asked me to elaborate:

If journalism and journalists are no longer gatekeepers, then what ARE we? Nobody I know of has made a cohesive explanation of what our role is any more in society.

I initially begged off, saying I might blog about gatekeepers in a week or two. But another gatekeeper discussion on Jack’s Facebook wall and an exchange of private Facebook messages prompted me to blog now.

I used to be a gatekeeper, the person who decided which of the many potential stories my reporters at the Des Moines Register and Kansas City Star and Times could do would become news back in the 1980s and early 1990s. As editor of the Minot Daily News, I had the final say on every news story for our North Dakota town (and let’s be honest: beyond breaking news, a newspaper editor largely is the gatekeeper for local TV stations, too). Keeping the gate was a serious responsibility: We got to decide what was news and what wasn’t, what was front-page news, what was an inside brief and what wasn’t worth our readers’ time at all. We had to decide when a story was vetted and verified enough to make it through the gate.  (more…)

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