Role of Editor in New Media

Arpit Agarwal

Shailesh J. Mehta School of Management
IIT Bombay
April 2009
Certificate
This is to certify that the project entitled ―Role of Editor in New Media‖ is the bona-fide work
of Mr. Arpit ...
Table of Contents
Certificate................................................................................................
4.6

Agenda setting for the mass media.......................................................................................
Abstract

1. Abstract
The motivation of this work came from Wisdom of Crowds (Suroweicki, 2004), which
challenged traditio...
Role of Editor in media

2. Role of Editor in media
2.1 Functions of media
Sociologist Charles Wright directly applied fun...
Role of Editor in media

understanding those events. Hence it becomes important to inform all citizens in some way
about t...
Role of Editor in media

provide the filtering function for the society so that the society knows what it truly needs and
...
Role of Editor in media

7. As the technology advances, a number of new methods of consumption of information
have emerged...
Role of Editor in media

2.4 Universal Intake
A public sphere which stands for universal intake is a system of government ...
Role of Editor in media

1. Filtering for potential political relevance
2. Filtering for accreditation.
Below is a detaile...
Role of Editor in media

2.5.2 Filtering for Accreditation
Much of the function of journalistic professional norms is to c...
Role of Editor in media

could be in a print form, a blog form, form of an e-book or simply snippets suitable for
consumpt...
Issues with traditional media: Opportunity for new media

3. Issues with traditional media: Opportunity for new
media
3.1....
Issues with traditional media: Opportunity for new media

Above is the traditional critique of the mass media model. Over ...
Issues with traditional media: Opportunity for new media

ideology in political parties, leaving the public more attuned t...
Issues with traditional media: Opportunity for new media

large role as the channel from and to a substantial majority of ...
Issues with traditional media: Opportunity for new media

journalism that maps the decline in public life. It is seen that...
Issues with traditional media: Opportunity for new media

There is a talk of a revolution in journalism in which the publi...
Issues with traditional media: Opportunity for new media

1. Their independence from government, party, or upper-class lar...
Issues with traditional media: Opportunity for new media

According to Benkler, the structure of mass media as a mode of c...
Issues with traditional media: Opportunity for new media
give the power of certain ―experts‖ (media businesses, news edito...
Issues with traditional media: Opportunity for new media
Hotel on 29th November 2008 to peacefully protest against the ter...
Issues with traditional media: Opportunity for new media

Because they are real-time, it is possible to draw a story from ...
Issues with traditional media: Opportunity for new media

3.8 How do new media work?
One special form of new media that is...
Issues with traditional media: Opportunity for new media

The network of blogs is highly regarded by him as the one offeri...
Issues with traditional media: Opportunity for new media
The beauty of new media is in being a network of ideas – ideas wh...
Gatekeeping and Agenda Setting in the New Media Era

4. Gatekeeping and Agenda Setting in the New
Media Era
Continuing wit...
Gatekeeping and Agenda Setting in the New Media Era

4.1.2 Core Assumptions and Statements
The gatekeeper decides which in...
Gatekeeping and Agenda Setting in the New Media Era

4.1.4 Example
A wire service editor decides alone what news audiences...
Gatekeeping and Agenda Setting in the New Media Era

4.2.4 Conceptual Model

Figure 4: Agenda-setting.
Source: Communicati...
Gatekeeping and Agenda Setting in the New Media Era
Continuing further, they said ―this new theory introduced (or reinforc...
Gatekeeping and Agenda Setting in the New Media Era

programming but rather on the organization of producing institutions ...
Gatekeeping and Agenda Setting in the New Media Era

The aforementioned changes have made it difficult to maintain the alw...
Gatekeeping and Agenda Setting in the New Media Era

These changes create what is called a multiaxiality that "transforms ...
Gatekeeping and Agenda Setting in the New Media Era

research universities. In many cases, academic research settings spon...
Gatekeeping and Agenda Setting in the New Media Era

directory placements. They have to be conscious of the fact that the ...
Gatekeeping and Agenda Setting in the New Media Era

The audience as a mass is conceptualized into a vision of a society c...
Gatekeeping and Agenda Setting in the New Media Era

The opinion leader, in turn, communicates it to the readers to make t...
Gatekeeping and Agenda Setting in the New Media Era

3. Abundance of content
These are the unique scenarios under which ne...
Digital Divide, Attention Scarcity and Media policy

5. Digital Divide, Attention Scarcity and Media policy
Although inter...
Digital Divide, Attention Scarcity and Media policy

Some scholars have suggested ways in which we need to distinguish bet...
Digital Divide, Attention Scarcity and Media policy

the Internet at a public library, access remains easiest for those wh...
Digital Divide, Attention Scarcity and Media policy

There is, thus, a strong need to understand and regulate the commerci...
Digital Divide, Attention Scarcity and Media policy

The concept of communicative entitlement to capture the basic level o...
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46101491 role-of-editor-in-new-media

  1. 1. Role of Editor in New Media Arpit Agarwal Shailesh J. Mehta School of Management IIT Bombay April 2009
  2. 2. Certificate This is to certify that the project entitled ―Role of Editor in New Media‖ is the bona-fide work of Mr. Arpit Agarwal (Roll No. 07927804) of Shailesh J. Mehta School of Management, Indian Institute of Technology Bombay, and has been completed in the partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of ―Master of Management‖ to him. Project Supervisor Prof. Shishir. K. Jha ...……………………. Internal Examiner and Chairperson Prof. (Ms.) Sharmila ...……………………. Date: ii
  3. 3. Table of Contents Certificate............................................................................................................................................ ii Table of Contents ............................................................................................................................... iii 1. Abstract ............................................................................................................................... 1 2. Role of Editor in media ...................................................................................................... 2 2.1 Functions of media .................................................................................................................. 2 2.2 How does mass media work? .................................................................................................. 3 2.3 Public Sphere .......................................................................................................................... 5 2.4 Universal Intake ...................................................................................................................... 6 2.5 Need for filtering ..................................................................................................................... 6 2.5.1 2.5.2 2.6 3. Filtering for potential political relevance ...................................................................................... 7 Filtering for Accreditation ............................................................................................................. 8 Synthesis of public opinion ..................................................................................................... 8 Issues with traditional media: Opportunity for new media .............................................. 10 3.1.1 3.2 The traditional mass media model............................................................................................... 10 Changing nature of media ..................................................................................................... 11 3.2.1 Response of political institutions ................................................................................................ 13 3.3 3.4 Advantages of the mass media model ................................................................................... 15 3.5 Opportunity for New Media .................................................................................................. 16 3.6 Definition of New Media ...................................................................................................... 17 3.7 Characteristics of new media ................................................................................................ 19 3.8 How do new media work? ..................................................................................................... 21 3.9 4. The role of journalism in a democracy .................................................................................. 13 Will new media replace traditional media? ........................................................................... 22 Gatekeeping and Agenda Setting in the New Media Era ................................................. 24 4.1 Gatekeeping........................................................................................................................... 24 4.1.1 4.1.2 4.1.3 4.1.4 4.2 History and Orientation ............................................................................................................... 24 Core Assumptions and Statements .............................................................................................. 25 Scope and Application ................................................................................................................ 25 Example ...................................................................................................................................... 26 Agenda-Setting Theory ......................................................................................................... 26 4.2.1 4.2.2 4.2.3 4.2.4 4.2.5 History and Orientation ............................................................................................................... 26 Core Assumptions and Statements .............................................................................................. 26 Scope and Application ................................................................................................................ 26 Conceptual Model ....................................................................................................................... 27 Example ...................................................................................................................................... 27 4.3 Need of Gatekeeping in a democratic society ....................................................................... 27 4.4 The breakdown of gatekeeping in changing media environment .......................................... 29 4.5 Gatekeeping in the new media .............................................................................................. 31 iii
  4. 4. 4.6 Agenda setting for the mass media........................................................................................ 33 4.6.1 4.7 Agenda setting in media ........................................................................................................ 34 4.7.1 4.7.2 5. Two-Step Flow ............................................................................................................................ 33 Two step flow in old media ......................................................................................................... 34 Two step flow in new media ....................................................................................................... 35 Digital Divide, Attention Scarcity and Media policy ....................................................... 37 5.1 Digital Divide ........................................................................................................................ 37 5.2 Digital Inequality................................................................................................................... 37 5.3 Digital Divide and Democracy .............................................................................................. 40 5.4 Attention Economy ............................................................................................................... 41 5.5 Attention in new media: Scarce or abundant? ....................................................................... 43 5.5.1 Policy implications of attention scarcity ..................................................................................... 46 5.6 5.7 Public policy in new media world ......................................................................................... 48 5.8 Public policy and digital divide ............................................................................................. 49 5.9 6. The business of new media ................................................................................................... 46 New media industry and public policy .................................................................................. 50 The New Media Paradigm ................................................................................................ 51 6.1 Response of traditional media ............................................................................................... 51 6.1.1 6.1.2 6.1.3 6.2 Opportunity for businesses based on new media .................................................................. 55 6.2.1 6.2.2 6.2.3 6.3 Convergence ................................................................................................................................ 51 The question of credibility .......................................................................................................... 53 Community Involvement ............................................................................................................. 54 New business models .................................................................................................................. 55 Death of advertising .................................................................................................................... 56 Online PR .................................................................................................................................... 56 Opportunity for other businesses to use new media .............................................................. 56 7. Conclusion ........................................................................................................................ 58 8. References ........................................................................................................................ 60 8.1 Bibliography .......................................................................................................................... 60 iv
  5. 5. Abstract 1. Abstract The motivation of this work came from Wisdom of Crowds (Suroweicki, 2004), which challenged traditional wisdom by arguing that it is possible for averaged aggregates of fairly diverse people to better the estimates of an expert consistently. This led to a curiosity as to what happens to an ―expert‖ in a sphere where it will be possible for technology to aggregate thousands of diverse opinions? Mass media presents one sphere where such aggregates have been seen to be very common in the form of new media. As a field, good amount of literature and commentary is available on the topic as well. This work seeks to examine the role of an expert in this field where aggregates are easily formed and an entirely new form of media has emerged with the advent of internet. This work explains the role of editor as an expert in a new media scenario. Mass media synthesizes opinions within a public sphere through filtering of multiple sources under the condition of universal intake. There are multiple reasons within traditional media why new media founds itself to be widely preferred. Some of these are commercial nature of traditional media and inherent concentration of media businesses. New media make an option of ―dialogue‖ available to the users in multiple forms of media (―multimedia‖) linked together by a new language called ―Hypertext‖. This coupled with the fact that it is now possible to produce media at almost zero marginal cost by anyone with basic language skills, has led to a widespread proliferation of new media. The work examines the paradigm shift in the role of gatekeeping and agenda setting functions of mass media under the new media paradigm and illustrates how new media is appearing to be a stronger alternative to traditional media, despite lack of a clear authority of an editor (―expert‖). It then examines two of the biggest issues ahead of new media adoption, namely digital divide and attention scarcity and suggests how public policy should tackle these to enable society to take the maximum advantage of the power of new media. In the end, the work summarizes various possible paradigms that new media has built, not just for media businesses, but also for other forms of new and old businesses. 1
  6. 6. Role of Editor in media 2. Role of Editor in media 2.1 Functions of media Sociologist Charles Wright directly applied functionalism to mass communication in his 1959 book Mass Communication: A Sociological Perspective. He noted the following "classic four functions of the media" as the activities of communications specialists: 1. Surveillance of the environment 2. Correlation of the parts of society in responding to the environment, and 3. Transmission of the social heritage from one generation to the next 4. Entertainment. For most communication scholars, these functions became synonymous with the aims or goals of the media industries themselves. Surveillance of the environment refers to the collection and distribution of information by the media. People know the fate of the government appropriations bill because they saw it on the news. Correlation of parts of society refers to the interpretive or analytical activities of the media. People know from the newspaper that the bill‘s failure to pass means no raises for teachers this year. Transmission of the social heritage refers to the ability of the media to communicate values, norms, and styles across time and between groups. Finally, entertainment refers to the ability of the media to amuse or entertain. These are obvious aims of the media, but they may not necessarily be the functions served for the people who consume those media. For example, a television network might air a violent police drama with the aim of entertaining, but the actual function served for the audience might be learning how to solve conflicts. In other words, the aim is not always the ultimate or only function. In their intention to survey the environment, the mass media devote significant resources to the coverage and reporting of political campaigns. But if citizens ignore this coverage, the intended function fails to occur—the environment has not been surveyed despite the efforts of the media. But if citizens do consume the reports, then the intended function—surveillance of the environment—does take place. For surveillance to occur, the transmission of news about important events must be accompanied by audience activity that results in learning about and 2
  7. 7. Role of Editor in media understanding those events. Hence it becomes important to inform all citizens in some way about the available source of information. This need for informing citizens about the availability of a particular channel of media implies that certain citizen‘s choice of channel would not just be based on its own merit but also on the amount of visibility it carries in the public sphere. This fact, as we will see below has ramifications on the quality of public sphere that gets created, gravitating towards the mass media, against the basic tenets of media being an easily accessible medium. This is one of the reasons why new media is preferred by some people. More on this discussion is in later part of this chapter. 2.2 How does mass media work? The news media can be broadly represented in the form of a system of collecting and transmitting information with the functions as elicited above. Within the boundary conditions of these functions, media in present day world behaves as: 1. A business 2. A system for public information, and 3. A way for people (businesses, political parties and individuals) to reach to their audience Broadly, the system of media can be represented by a three stage system of input, processing and output of information in a broad public sphere: Figure 1: A schematic representation of media business Mass Media, as a business, is not always involved in creation (production) of all information. It is also not involved in the transmitting all the information. The key role of a media is to 3
  8. 8. Role of Editor in media provide the filtering function for the society so that the society knows what it truly needs and what it should, but in a way it can consume. There are a number of issues in the above paragraph that need to be taken care of: 1. Media (business), usually, is involved in creation of this information, thus acting as a source. For example, most TV new channels have their own production team and an array of journalists on permanent role who are constantly scouting for information worth being noticed by the society. In many cases, however, media is not involved in directly creating this information and gets a feed from another entity, like a news agency. 2. Media is usually involved, to some extent, in transmitting and distributing the information. Even print newspapers exert control on the distribution channel. TV channels, on the other hand, are even responsible for managing the entire distribution of the content to a consumer. They do so by managing relationships with the cable networks which take their content to the consumers. 3. If the above two functions are purely optional, the core role of any media authority turns out then to be the filtering it provides. It is in this function that most value of media is created and media (business) is made or broken. Examining the editing/filtering function of the media is the key objective of this work. More details on the need for filtering are discussed in the section below. 4. The role of information is such that unless someone knows the nature of it, she cannot determine the value and use of this piece of information. It is here that the power of media is truly felt. It is the media that determines and, to some extent, pre-empts what a society truly needs. 5. Media is also responsible for determining what a society should get to hear about or not. For example, it is within the power of media that a minor philanthropic act by a common man gets noticed and disturbing pictures of heinous crime scenes never reach mass audience. If media gives society elements to food for thought, this control over what media chooses to pass or reject becomes a big power in the hands of media. 6. The society is often unable to deal with the amount of information. With the advent of knowledge economy and competition in the news business, users are constantly being bombarded with nearly infinite sources of information. Users are often at loss of the choice of the sources information they should follow or reject. A discussion on ―Attention Economy‖ follows in Chapter 5. 4
  9. 9. Role of Editor in media 7. As the technology advances, a number of new methods of consumption of information have emerged which have changed the relation of many users to the sources of information. For example, RSS feed is a technology that allows user to collect information from millions of sources on to her desktop. Other services exist that enable user to receive the information directly on her handheld/mobile. This has further complicated the role of media in the present day world. New media has been significantly comprehended thanks to these tools. A discussion on this is in Chapter 4. 2.3 Public Sphere ―Public Sphere‖ is used in reference to the set of practices that members of a society uses to communicate about matters they understand to be of public concern and that potentially require collective action or recognition. It defines a particular set of social practices that are necessary for the functioning of any complex social system that includes elements of governing human beings. Media, as a system, is one of the many ways in which a public sphere functions. In this perspective, media can be held responsible for creation of a public sphere which is in interest with the long term benefits of the society (Benkler, 2004). All discussions in this work are assumed to be held within the above definition of public sphere. He continues further to say that the issue with the present form of public sphere is that customers at the ends of these systems would treat the communications that filled the public sphere as finished goods. These were treated not as moves in a conversation but as a completed statements, whose addressees were understood to be passive, readers, listeners and viewers. The formation the entire new media movement is in the direction of making a participative public sphere. Benkler says that the internet allows individuals to abandon the ideas of the public sphere as primarily constructer of finished statements uttered by a small set of actors socially understood to be ―the media‖ (whether state owned or commercial) and separated from society, and to move towards a set of social practices that individuals as participating in a debate. Statements in a public sphere can now be seen as invitations for a conversation, not as finished goods (Benkler, 2004). 5
  10. 10. Role of Editor in media 2.4 Universal Intake A public sphere which stands for universal intake is a system of government committed to the idea that, in principle, the concerns of all those governed by that system are equally respected as potential proper subject for political action and that all those governed have a say in what government should require a public sphere that can capture the observations of all constituents. These include at least their observations of all constituents, about the state of the world as they perceive and understand it, and their opinions of the relative desirability of alternative courses of action with regard to their perceptions or those of theirs (Benkler, 2004). It is important not to confuse ―Universal Intake‖ with more comprehensive ideas, such as ―every idea should be heard‖. If everyone speaks, no one would listen and the purpose of forming a public sphere would be defeated. Hence, there is a need for a limited number of sources of information. It is, indeed, the role of filtering and accreditation to whittle down what the universal intake function drags in and make it into a manageable set of political discussion topics and interventions (Benkler, 2004). 2.5 Need for filtering Benkler has taken a strongly political view of the role of public sphere. He believes that there is only one objective of filtering – to create a political view of the information from across the society (Benkler, 2004). In a broad context, the major reason why we have an organized media is because this lends a way to filter all the available information in the world in a form that can be read and consumed in wholesome manner, in a context of creation of public sphere. The filtering function, in a broad sense, is the raison d‘être of the media. It gains its significance in all the dimensions of filtering: 1. Reduction in magnitude of sources information by compiling from different sources 2. Consciously putting a context around the information which is in general benefit of the society in the long term 3. Create trust in the society by doing necessary journalistic research and establishing of facts through its own sources According to Benkler, there are two major objectives of filtering (Benkler, 2004): 6
  11. 11. Role of Editor in media 1. Filtering for potential political relevance 2. Filtering for accreditation. Below is a detailed description of these needs of filtering. 2.5.1 Filtering for potential political relevance Benkler takes a markedly political view of the filtering. According to him ―Not everything that someone considers to be proper concern for collective action, is perceived as such by most other participants in the political debate. An overly restrictive filtering system is likely to impoverish a public sphere and rob it of its capability to develop legitimate public opinion‖1 (Benkler, 2004). In a broader, non-political sense, filtering provides for the reduction in size of the content that the readers/users assimilate. It, therefore, performs two functions: 1. It reduces the choice of the news that a user has in one particular channel. Since the number of channels is also finite, there is a limit to the how much information is used for creation of a public sphere. 2. It assures consumers that all the ―important‖ bits of information have been covered in the fixed size of the channel, thereby giving value to the ―attention‖ of the user. These two functions make traditional media a non-objective method of collection and dissemination of information. Since the traditional media sees high concentration of audience, this power of deciding what is relevant and what is not, plays a major role in deciding what the society thinks and talks about (Benkler, 2004). Given that most of these businesses are drive by commercial intentions, there is a tendency to represent the lowest common denominator of news. This is not necessarily a useful phenomenon as many issues and opinions are completely unheard, just because only a small minority supports them. The greatest advantage of new media is the capacity to represent all issues of worth for the formation of a public sphere. 1 The Wealth of Networks, Yochai Benkler (2004). Page 183 7
  12. 12. Role of Editor in media 2.5.2 Filtering for Accreditation Much of the function of journalistic professional norms is to create and preserve the credibility of the professional press as a source of accreditation for the public at large. Parties give credibility to persons, academia provides it to researchers; civil servants can be a source of accreditation and so can be some large corporations and NGOs. NGOs, very often intended precisely to pre-organize opinion that does not easily pass the relevant public sphere‘s filters of relevance and accreditation and provide it with a voice that will. Political discourse is very different from academic discourse, because the objective of each system is different. In academic discourse, the fact that a large number of people hold a particular opinion (―The universe was created in seven days‖) does not render that opinion credible enough to warrant serious academic discussion. While accreditation is important for formation of a public sphere based on valid facts, in traditional media it finds itself highly correlated with the channel having biggest financial strength or readership/viewership. What this does is that the public sphere gets loaded in favour of financial muscle. Media businesses addressing the largest audience are often capable of overriding otherwise strong journalistic evidence coming from a smaller player. Filters, both for relevance and accreditation, provide a critical point of control over debate, and hence are extremely important design elements. They are often the most important control points and power centres of the media. We will see in the next chapter how they affect the formation of public sphere. 2.6 Synthesis of public opinion Benkler defined synthesis as ―the communications system that offers the platform for the public sphere must also enable the synthesis of clusters of individual opinion that are sufficiently close and articulated to form something more than private opinions held by some number of individuals‖2 (Benkler, 2004). Synthesis function of media is the capability of media to present their arguments in a way that it becomes easier for the consumer to assimilate them. It is the synthesis function that takes care of presentation of the content in a way that user finds it most convenient to access it. It 2 The Wealth of Networks, Yochai Benkler (2004). Page 184 8
  13. 13. Role of Editor in media could be in a print form, a blog form, form of an e-book or simply snippets suitable for consumption through mobile phones. Synthesis function is involved also in advancing the arguments presented by other sources such that a debate ensues on the topic under consideration. Synthesis function goes a step ahead from filtering and builds a series of arguments-counter arguments that enrich the discussion in the public sphere. Benkler clarifies ―what counts as ―public opinion‖ seeks to peaceably clear competing positions as to how we ought to act as a polity. The core role of the political public sphere is to provide a platform for converting privately developed observations, intuitions, and opinions into public opinions that can be brought to bear in the political system toward determining collective action‖3 (Benkler, 2004). 3 The Wealth of Networks, Yochai Benkler (2004). Page 185 9
  14. 14. Issues with traditional media: Opportunity for new media 3. Issues with traditional media: Opportunity for new media 3.1.1 The traditional mass media model The mass media model described in Chapter 1 has several issues which emanate mostly from the commercial imperatives of the media as a business. The most successful form of commercial media is an ad-supported media where the broadcaster inserts ads in the stream and monetizes that. However, the trouble with this kind of a model is that there is a morethan-necessary focus on creating numbers and the success of a media channel is measured from the number of users/viewers it can command. This leads the broadcasters to move away from producing content that is genuinely useful for the creation of a public sphere, giving in to the ―lowest common denominator‖. As Benkler says, ―the advertising supported media needs to attract large audiences, leading programming away from the genuinely politically important, challenging, and engaging, and toward the titillating or the soothing an emphasis on entertainment over news and analysis‖4 (Benkler, 2004). Having large numbers in a media channel is not a very big problem, per se. But since numbers become crucial for commercial success of all media channels, very few of them are able to sustain. This means that there is only a limited amount of diversity possible. Even with these, their intake is seen to be is too limited. This puts a significant limit on the viewpoints explored by mass media, leaving many significant perspectives unexplored and underrepresented because they are so far away from the cadres of professional journalists or cannot afford to get significant attention. Commercial nature of mass media implies that it is heavily dependent on providing attention to the highest bidder, without any great regard to the whether it is of primary concern for the public sphere or not. Because they represent a huge audience, mass media channels are able to sway the public opinion in any arbitrary direction they choose to take. These directions could be motivated by strictly commercial or political interests. In a democracy, media power is therefore considered to be significant for success or failure of a particular political party. 4 The Wealth of Networks, Yochai Benkler (2004). Page 197 10
  15. 15. Issues with traditional media: Opportunity for new media Above is the traditional critique of the mass media model. Over past few years, several other trends have appeared in mass media model, particularly since 1980s. 3.2 Changing nature of media Over the period of last two decades there is seen to be a very significant shift in the choices mass media has made. There is a significant decline seen in the importance of political coverage, and a significant reduction in the number of correspondents covering the different world regions in US Media. There is seen to be clear choice made by traditional media houses to save cost by reducing the number of foreign editions. What is even more intriguing is that the difference between broadsheet and tabloid papers has been narrowed. As competition intensifies, the quality broadsheets co-opt a more sensationalist veneer to the news product. ―The crisis is due to the competition for advertising and more expensive newsprint, leading to a lack of interest in both foreign and investigative journalism‖5 (Tumber, 1993). With the advent of 24-hour news channels, there is an increasing trend towards making journalism more of a process than a product. There is a stress on the creation of interesting content sustainably, at a cheaper cost. Expose of Watergate scandal in US, and Bofors scandal in India, is seen to the height of investigative journalism. These incidents brought a significant attention to the power of media that resulted in changing the governments in both countries. Tumber says that over a period of time, there has been a clear shift towards the journalism of assertion from journalism of verification, also called ―gossip journalism‖. Initially the start of is the allegation, and them a speculation until the counter-allegation is then issues. ―The demand to keep up with this, to and fro, leaves journalists with less time to sort out what is true and significant‖6 (Tumber, 1993). There is a growing proliferation of media scandals across the global landscape. The problem is not with media alone, several structural and macropolitical trends have weakened political systems making them more vulnerable to turmoil. There is a breakdown of 5 , 6 Democracy in the information age: Role of the fourth estate in cyberspace. Howard Tumber. Information Communication and Society (2001). Page 96 and 98. 11
  16. 16. Issues with traditional media: Opportunity for new media ideology in political parties, leaving the public more attuned to the reliability of parties and personalities of candidates than to their professed positions on issues. With the advent of personalities in politics, as is seen by clear projection of Prime ministerial candidates in general elections, a culture of promotionalism has taken over many areas of public life. With this, scandals have become big for tabloid newspapers. Almost daily in tabloids of Mumbai, one can see expose of one or the other local scandal. Overall, the trend is to move ahead of purely debate-investigative mode to a more promotional and sensationalized version of news coverage by mass media. Most of the journalists feel their careers can be made or break by exposing one or other scandal as that would bring readership/viewership to the mass media. What could be even more disturbing is the trend presently being seen in the India television media – that of blurring boundaries between media and entertainment. Several Hindi news channels, like India TV, focus on getting flimsy stories as news. They even go to an extent of creation of news items that have no connection with reality, just to sensationalize the coverage as that brings them more TRPs. Most other Hindi news channels have followed suit to follow the India TV model. Their news coverage can be seen as far from truth and in most cases, frivolous. What is even more disturbing is that even media houses whose English channels (like NDTV 24x7 and CNN-IBN) are seen to be flag-bearers of serious news content, indulge in the similar kind of news content on their Hindi channels. Another major disadvantage of the concentrated mass media model is what is called as ―the Berlusconi effect.‖ The Italian Prime Minister was seen as using his control over the media channels to virtually storm his way to power as no concrete resistance could be mounted by his opposition, in absence of support of mass media channels. This incident points to a threat of mass media overriding the public debate by setting the public agenda as per its own wishes. Benkler says that this alone does not outline the whole problem with mass media model. It is actually broader and more subtle. The concern is about the degree of concentration in massmedia markets, which manifests itself in two particular ways. ―The first is a lack of competition in a market, to a degree sufficient to allow a firm to exercise power over its pricing. This is the antitrust sense. The second, very different concern might be called ―mindshare.‖ That is, media is ―concentrated‖ when a small number of media firms play a 12
  17. 17. Issues with traditional media: Opportunity for new media large role as the channel from and to a substantial majority of readers, viewers, and listeners in a given politically relevant social unit‖7 (Benkler, 2004). 3.2.1 Response of political institutions It is now possible for institutions and agencies to reach out to their viewers/target audience directly through non-traditional media like internet and mobile. Also, there has been a clear recognition of manipulative tendencies in mass media towards a public message of importance. With increasing recognition of the fact that traditional media may not be able to carry the information from government to public in the manner the government wants, there is a clear trend towards usage of alternate news channels in the US and the UK. The trend is to bypass the news organization filters. Tony Blair attempted to spread his messages through regular internet broadcasts since early 2000. There was even an online consultation paper on British Government‘s Freedom to Information white paper which laid the foundation of a mechanism by which government can use the internet for delivery of information messages. The elections 2008 in US were seen as the first with full-fledged exploitation of usage of internet and other non-traditional media. Both, Obama and McCain had their own internet strategies with focus on releasing key information online and putting all their discussion details up there. What this enabled was a direct dissemination of information from the candidates directly to the public, something which was heavily dependent on TV channels earlier. The power of online media is so strong, that it is believed that the election debate videos were viewed by more people online than on TV. 3.3 The role of journalism in a democracy As listed above, the traditional media is facing a ―crisis‖ on two fronts: the first is an increasing trend of concentration and its consequent increased commercial pressures and the second is the development of new electronic communications. There is a growing disillusionment existing not only among the general public, but also within the journalistic professionals, about the economic structures that support journalism. There is a decline in 7 The Wealth of Networks, Yochai Benkler (2004). Page 201 13
  18. 18. Issues with traditional media: Opportunity for new media journalism that maps the decline in public life. It is seen that journalism is a major contributor to the malaise in the public life. The failure of the profession is leading to calls for new forms of reporting requiring a change in the profession necessary for journalism once again to be a primary force in the revitalization of public life. The public journalism movement believe that journalism is suffering a fundamental loss of authority and regaining the authority must be journalism‘s first step towards revitalizing itself. There is an increasing threat the professional idea of objectivity in journalism – a view that there has to be a balance that provides an element of conflict. The public discourse is not meant to be consumed only by journalists and other professionals, but for the general public. There is a growing need to be focussed on involving citizens in the formation of the public discourse. For example, the electorate needs to be invited to expand the scope of political coverage beyond politicians. Such public journalism would invite community at large, reporters and readers alike. The idea of good/public journalism is theorized to enhance a newspaper‘s standing in the marketplace by attracting more and better readers. Although controversial as most commentators do not believe that such a platform would be able to keep its objectivity, this does provide a motivation for working towards a healthy public sphere (Glasser, 1998). There is a lack of understanding of the relationship of journalism to the news technologies that are emerging in the information society. There is a lot of speculation on the role of journalists in the unmediated landscape. The position of journalism as a unified profession is no longer seen as tenable (Bardoel, 1996). The new media formats would lead to two types of journalism. First, orientating journalism where background commentary and explanation are given to the general public and, second, instrumental journalism that provides functional and specialized information to interested customers. There is an increasing realization of the fact that the days of a journalist‘s role of a gatekeeper in a society is over. The new role that journalism will don is that of a ―trusted guide‖. The journalists need to broaden their definition of public service to include other areas alongside investigative journalism and the coverage of breaking news. Being a servant on the internet means engaging in what we‘re beginning to be called as ―service journalism‖. 14
  19. 19. Issues with traditional media: Opportunity for new media There is a talk of a revolution in journalism in which the public are telling their own stories on the Internet (Yelvington, 2009). This ―People‘s Journalism‖, as Yelvington coins it, communicates through email, Usenet discussion forums and personal web pages. He cites an example of Slashdot where all the contents come from participants who discuss and criticize references to news elsewhere on the web. The Sun Herald, a weekly in Florida, has built Sunline as a place where all its readers can engage with one another providing a community resource. In essence, they become participants and not just consumers. Contrary to popular fears, Yelvington also believes that such individual empowerment does not imply end of organization of the state. In this light it is interesting to observe how the profession of journalism has undergone sea change. Journalists now need to see themselves as the facilitators of responsible public discussion not the guardians of public knowledge. Journalists are seen as the people who help us make the connections between pieces of information that we are too busy to make for ourselves (Aufderheide, 1998). Whether they do so by hyperlink or snail mail doesn‘t matter as long as the basic task is sustained. According to the ―journalistic theory of democracy‖, the journalist has three roles: one, to inform citizens. The more informed the citizens are, the more actively they will participate in political process. Three, the more they participate, the more democratic the country is apt to be. Gans argues that the basic assumption of this theory is that if journalists do their regular job, the citizens will be informed or will inform themselves. It is still not clear if informed citizens will be obliged to participate any better in the process of democracy. There is a case of several people being very politically active, but still not at all informed at the level one would expect. Another assumption is that all participation in a political process necessarily enriches the process of democracy. Gans argues that it in these assumptions that originates the need for journalism even in the presence of widespread new media. Or, in other words, it is here that new media will play the most important role. 3.4 Advantages of the mass media model According to Benkler, there are three primary defences or advantages have also been seen in these media (Benkler, 2004): 15
  20. 20. Issues with traditional media: Opportunity for new media 1. Their independence from government, party, or upper-class largesse, particularly against the background of the state-owned media in authoritarian 2. The professionalism and large newsrooms that commercial mass media can afford to support to perform the watchdog function in complex societies. 3. Their near-universal visibility and independence enable them to identify important issues percolating in society 3.5 Opportunity for New Media The greatest shift with the advent of internet and a connected world, is the emergence of computer becoming a device to simulate new forums for social activities. This has given rise to much of the phenomenal expansion on the Internet of so-called ―Communities of Interest‖. As a result of phenomenal increase in the capabilities of both, computers and telecom networks, there is a threat to the mass dominant model of the media: one-to-many model. The Internet has increasingly been defined by what the users themselves put on it, do with it and express to each other through it. The Internet is arguably the first mass media form in history to become the product of its audience. This is a new paradigm. There is a great transition from evolution of a reader from passive consumer to an active collaborator. This appears to be a revolutionary concept with consumers sharing their experiences through their own creative imaginations in a collaborative manner. This is almost a re-discovery of primary form of entertainment of children where each would assume the role of a first person acting-out of dramatic stories. Although the social inhibitions force us to keep our latent dramatic potential under wraps, the desire to explore our creative side is fundamental to human nature. The key to unlocking this dramatic participation tendency is referred to as the ―anonymity factor‖. This release people of their inhibitions which normally keep them constrained, and allows them to rediscover their innate ability to share in the creation of dramatic situations. What is even more enriching is that the nature of entertainment experience itself as it evolved from a locked-off, fully authored and predetermined experience, to one that is generated in real-time, through the collaboration of the participating individuals. Such an experience is dynamic, real-time and supremely engaging. 16
  21. 21. Issues with traditional media: Opportunity for new media According to Benkler, the structure of mass media as a mode of communications imposes a certain set of basic characteristics on the kind of public conversation it makes possible (Benkler, 2004): 1. It is always communication from a small number of people, organized into an even smaller number of distinct outlets, to an audience several orders of magnitude larger, unlimited in principle in its membership except by the production capacity of the media itself 2. The vast difference between the number of speakers and the number of listeners, and the finished-goods style of mass-media products, imposes significant constraints on the extent to which these media can be open to feedback 3. The immense and very loosely defined audience of mass media affects the filtering and synthesis functions of the mass media as a platform for the public sphere. With the new media, it is possible for alleviate all the three of these limitations. Let us first define new media. 3.6 Definition of New Media The new digital age arrive with a set of big communication challenges for traditional mainstream media: new relations with audience (Interactivity), new languages (Multimedia) and a new grammar (Hypertext). But this media revolution not only changes the communication landscape for the usual players, most importantly, it opens up the mass communication system for a wide range of new players, including individuals. Benkler believe that new media represents a basic shift in the way media functions in our society: ―The first element is the shift from a hub-and-spoke architecture with unidirectional links to the end points in the mass media, to distributed architecture with multidirectional connections among all nodes in the networked information environment‖8 (Benkler, 2004) This implies that what we are now stepping into is a time where network is the media. There is not just a unidirectional flow of information from certain ―experts‖ to others who are not considered to be such experts, but rather giving a chance for everyone in the society a role in creation, dissemination and consumption of information. What changes fundamentally is to 8 The Wealth of Networks, Yochai Benkler (2004). Page 212 17
  22. 22. Issues with traditional media: Opportunity for new media give the power of certain ―experts‖ (media businesses, news editors or journalists) to everyone who can connect to the network of resources, creating a rich, interactive and interconnected structure of a giant information processing engine that never existed in past. This results in a fundamental change about the roles of speakers and listeners and the whole act of speaking/writing about a certain issue. For one, the cost of creating your own content on a blog is nearly zero. This means that anyone with access to internet can become a publisher and, by virtue, an editor. Journalists and columnists have to now give space to their readers for contribution in a discussion. They also have the power to use hypertext to link to several other resources where the reader can refer directly in search for more information. The biggest change is experienced by the listeners/readers. With the advent of new media technologies, it is possible for them to be participating in the process of creation and not just act as passive receivers of content. Newspapers are increasingly seeing competition from blogs. Anyone with an online free account on a popular blogging website can now publish his views. These views could range from plain reporting or reproduction of news to deeply analytical topics with authentic and ―ahead-of-the-curve‖ content. Practically anyone can become a publisher and will have a space to interact with others on the topics they way. Not just this, increasingly, more citizens are involved in creation of news content that is near realtime, wider in reach and covers a bigger variety of issues than mainstream media can carry. For example, the first pictures of Mumbai Terror attack on 26th November 2008 were broken by a hobby photographer Vinukumar Ranganathan on micro-blogging website Twitter. For next 60 hours, he and his friends on Twitter were the fastest and the most reliable source of information on the incident that shook entire world. Several mainstream journalists also followed their updates and, later, gave them due credit too. Never before in Indian history have citizen groups been so empowered that they create news ahead of the mainstream media, so much that mainstream media find them as the most reliable source of information. The best part of their coverage was that having realized the value of information they were churning, they were not only sourcing content from their own sources, but also worked very effectively towards quelling rumours and avoiding misinformation, in a truly responsible manner. Another example around the same incident was about a blogger whose single post on the state of affairs elicited a huge viral movement and thousands of people came around Taj Mahal 18
  23. 23. Issues with traditional media: Opportunity for new media Hotel on 29th November 2008 to peacefully protest against the terror attack and security crisis in India. 3.7 Characteristics of new media The blurring limits between journalism and blogging, between data and knowledge, between news agencies and semantic search engines, between readers and writers and between old and new media, reveals the need for a set of intellectual tools that contribute to understand by rethinking the changing nature of media and communication in the digital age (Orihuela, 2003). He then goes on to explain 10 paradigms of new communication platforms that he thinks would change the media as we know it: 1. From audience to User: This is the biggest and most visible shift in the new communication scenario - the unidirectional way of media consumption is replaced by the concept of active user seeking for content, exploring and navigating info-spaces. Users also become content producers. He devises a new name ―Thin Media‖ for users who wish to engage in a more active by low profile media activity. 2. From media to content: The focus shifts from industrial production constraints to content authority. Brands which represent more value and authority are followed by more people. There is an essential de-coupling of the process of communication from its underlying technical process, enabling people who are well-versed with media and its process to create content too. 3. From Monomedia to Multimedia: With the advent of interconnected networks and processing power, the distinctions of language (audio, visual, text) are blurring. Increasingly we see all the three media being used at the same time to effectively communicate with the listener. But these are normally skills intensive issues, hence there is a huge market for video templates and blog designs. 4. From Periodicity to Real-time: When participants of media creation increase by two to three order of magnitudes, there is a possibility of creation of content on all the possible topics, from all possible places in the world, at all points in time. To add to the blogging revolution, there is the micro-blogging revolution which has swept the whole world off its feet. Millions of people around the world, including 13,000 from India. Some of the most respected people like Obama, Oprah and Bill Gates are also regulars on Twitter. 19
  24. 24. Issues with traditional media: Opportunity for new media Because they are real-time, it is possible to draw a story from blogs which are written about a topic (or tag, as they are called in the language of new media). A number of recent issues of common interest, like Mumbai terror strike were closely followed by bloggers, thereby creating a well-documented chronicle of the story. Such a flexibility was absent in old media scenario 5. From Scarcity to Abundance: As one of the side-effects of all readers becoming writers, there is an increasing proliferation of online information without clear attribution of source authority and heterogeneity of content quality. There is often so much content on the subject that time becomes the only limited resource. 6. From editor-mediated to non-mediated: The media editors are not the only gatekeepers in deciding what should be the agenda of the public sphere. Worldwide publishing without editors, but with a close peer group review daily process and in most cases open to comments from readers. This builds the credibility and trust among the readers. 7. From Distribution to access: The broadcasting paradigm of new media means that the communication now becomes a many-to-many mode. The only issue then is to increase access to more people. 8. From one-way to interactivity: Interactive nature of new media implies that the audience could now be engaged in a conversation and the readers can contribute to the process of news creation itself. There are three levels of interactivity: First, where the user chooses the format of information display, second, where the user produces input for a system, and third, where the user communicates with other users of the system, creating a community of users. 9. From linear to hypertext: Hypertext linkages provide backward and forward linkages to the content being displayed on a website. It almost provides a temporal dimension to media content. By hyperlinks, blogs allow their users to look up to other sources of the same information. Also they are useful to give a way ahead of user to look for more information or go deeper in a thought. 10. From Data to Knowledge: The crucial role of human knowledge is to identify, comment, link and discuss the data available online, turning it into valuable and usable knowledge. In this sense, the emergence of a semantic web looks very promising as it would now be able to model to debate in a much more organized manner. 20
  25. 25. Issues with traditional media: Opportunity for new media 3.8 How do new media work? One special form of new media that is widely understood is blogging. Blogging has existed ever since the first emergence of public internet. Hence, it has often been seen as the most mature form of new media. There are several different forms of blogs that exist on the internet today – practically covering all interest areas – and running under different business models, ranging from a pure hobby to an ad supported full-time business. Benkler describes the network of blogs as a collection of millions of news sources. He says ―the networked public sphere allows hundreds of millions of people to publish whatever and whenever they please without disintegrating into an unusable cacophony, as the firstgeneration critics argued, and it filters and focuses attention without re-creating the highly concentrated model of the mass media that concerned the second-generation critique‖9 (Benkler, 2004). Figure 2: A schematic representation of media business. Source: The Wealth of Networks (Benkler, 2004) 9 The Wealth of Networks, Yochai Benkler (2004). Page 238 21
  26. 26. Issues with traditional media: Opportunity for new media The network of blogs is highly regarded by him as the one offering some semblance of understanding the new media. In the figure above, there is: 1. A strongly connected core: This forms the basis of most information processing needs of a blogging network. It forms the core of the blogging world which essentially does the mainstream editor‘s job. All information is usually passed regulations that they can simply get a computer and that would open up multiple things with you. 2. An “In” Function: This the group of bloggers with feet on ground experience. These people make sure that enough information is channelled into the system each day. 3. An “Out” Function: The outwards looking function represents the people who absorb information. 4. A lot of Tendrils: Some blogs work their way out of the blogging circle by not belonging to any one platform. These are irregular visitors/writers who get sold on idea of a particular blog but do not care much about continuing to express their opinions. 5. A lot of tubes: They open up alternate channels of information to flow from input to output. 6. Disconnected Components: These are the participants of the blogging world who are not a part of the network Benkler goes ahead to say that each issue and school of thought has a similar system of interconnected blogs. The above model is thus replicated into thousands of such model to represent the new media on the internet (Benkler, 2004). 3.9 Will new media replace traditional media? If new media offers such revolutionary advantages, is it possible for new media to completely replace traditional form of media? Perhaps, not in near future. Success of a media is driven by society. With respect to the world of traditional media, new media offers many non-linear characteristics. Whether useful or not, these intricacies are not completely understood by the society. Despite having the potential of being capable of being the primary mode of formation of the public sphere, until it is fully understood, it would be difficult to say if new media is sufficient to carry the primary function of creation of a public sphere. 22
  27. 27. Issues with traditional media: Opportunity for new media The beauty of new media is in being a network of ideas – ideas which cater to all tastes. It allows communities to produce participatory journalism, grassroots reporting, annotative reporting, commentary and fact-checking, which the mainstream media feed upon, developing them as s pool of tips, sources and story ideas. What people often fail to understand the idea of new media is much different from the traditional media, as here the internet itself acts as an editing mechanism. Another reason why traditional media cannot be completely replaced is because bloggers do not have to adhere to the ―established principles of fairness, accuracy and truth‖. While its strength is definitely in bringing out a breadth of topics of the world, it is definitely not a replacement of the depth of analysis provided by a professional journalist. The best perspective is to view them as complementary to each other. Widespread blogging has made the news media to be more accessible and interactive. At the same time, blogging itself has taken a serious note with many people earning their livelihood through this media alone. 23
  28. 28. Gatekeeping and Agenda Setting in the New Media Era 4. Gatekeeping and Agenda Setting in the New Media Era Continuing with the discussion at the end of chapter 2 on the possibility of new media replacing the traditional media, we examine some critical function of mass media in this chapter and evaluate the critical roles played by the mass media in formation of a public sphere. Some of the most important roles played by the mass media are: 1. Gatekeeping: Controlling the flow of information in and out of the public sphere 2. Agenda Setting: Setting the tone of the discussion that takes place between individuals in a society The following two sections build these concepts. The sections following them explain how the new media has changed the way society applies gatekeeping and agenda setting. 4.1 Gatekeeping Gatekeeping refers to the control over the flow of information in and out of a public sphere. Traditionally, mass media is responsible of regulation of information in and out of the public sphere, that is, collective consciousness of the society. 4.1.1 History and Orientation 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. Lewin‘s comments were then picked up and turned it solidly toward journalism in 1950 (White, 1964). Then the role of gatekeepers was seen as taking a a different direction. They found the audience learns how much importance to attach to a news item from the emphasis the media place on it. McCombs and Shaw pointed out that the gatekeeping concept is related to the newer concept, agenda-setting (McCombs M. , 1997). The gatekeeper concept is now 50 years old and has slipped into the language of many disciplines, including gatekeeping in organizations. 24
  29. 29. Gatekeeping and Agenda Setting in the New Media Era 4.1.2 Core Assumptions and Statements The gatekeeper decides which information will go forward, and which will not. In other words a gatekeeper in a social system decides which of a certain commodity – materials, goods, and information – may enter the system. Important to realize is that gatekeepers are able to control the public‘s knowledge of the actual events by letting some stories pass through the system but keeping others out. Gatekeepers can also be seen as institutions or organizations. In a political system there are gatekeepers, individuals or institutions which control access to positions of power and regulate the flow of information and political influence. Gatekeepers exist in many jobs, and their choices hold the potential to colour mental pictures that are subsequently created in peoples‘ understanding of what is happening in the world around them. Media gatekeeping showed that decision making is based on principles of news values, organizational routines, input structure and common sense. Gatekeeping is vital in communication planning and almost al communication planning roles include some aspect of gatekeeping. 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. Nevertheless, gatekeeping is often a routine, guided by some set of standard questions. Figure 3: Schematic representation of a gatekeeping function. Source: The ‗Gatekeeper‘: A case study in the selection of news (White, 1964) 4.1.3 Scope and Application This theory is related to the mass media and organizations. In the mass media the focus is on the organizational structure of newsrooms and events. Gatekeeping is also an important in organizations, since employees and management are using ways of influence. 25
  30. 30. Gatekeeping and Agenda Setting in the New Media Era 4.1.4 Example A wire service editor decides alone what news audiences will receive from another continent. The idea is that if the gatekeeper‘s selections are biased, the readers‘ understanding will therefore be a little biased. 4.2 Agenda-Setting Theory 4.2.1 History and Orientation The growth of agenda setting from a parsimonious hypothesis about the transfer of issue salience from the media‘s agenda to the public‘s agenda in presidential election settings is easily summarised to one that now encompasses several broad traditions across geography, culture, and disciplines (McCombs M. , 1997). Agenda setting was born in a mass communication climate dominated by the prevailing sentiment that the mass media had limited effects and that people were more prone to selectively pay attention to content based on their preferences (Klapper, 1960). The debunking of the minimal role of media and selective perception was one of the most significant accomplishments of the early theorizing of agenda setting, which re-established the significance of the mass media in shaping public opinion at the cognitive level. 4.2.2 Core Assumptions and Statements Core: Agenda-setting is the creation of public awareness and concern of salient issues by the news media. Two basis assumptions underlie most research on agenda-setting: (1) the press and the media do not reflect reality; they filter and shape it; (2) media concentration on a few issues and subjects leads the public to perceive those issues as more important than other issues. One of the most critical aspects in the concept of an agenda-setting role of mass communication is the time frame for this phenomenon. In addition, different media have different agenda-setting potential. Agenda-setting theory seems quite appropriate to help us understand the pervasive role of the media (for example on political communication systems). 4.2.3 Scope and Application Just as McCombs and Shaw expanded their focus, other researchers have extended investigations of agenda setting to issues including history, advertising, foreign, and medical news. 26
  31. 31. Gatekeeping and Agenda Setting in the New Media Era 4.2.4 Conceptual Model Figure 4: Agenda-setting. Source: Communication models for mass communications (McQuail & Windahl, 1993) 4.2.5 Example McCombs and Shaw focused on the two elements: awareness and information. Investigating the agenda-setting function of the mass media in the 1968 presidential campaign, they attempted to assess the relationship between what voters in one community said were important issues and the actual content of media messages used during the campaign. McCombs and Shaw concluded that the mass media exerted a significant influence on what voters considered to be the major issues of the campaign. 4.3 Need of Gatekeeping in a democratic society According to the social responsibility theory was formulated by Theodore Peterson (1956) (Peterson, 1956) sought to reconcile the growing centralization of ownership and decreasing competition in the printed press, the rise of an inherently centralized and expensive electronic media, and social science research and real-world events that raised concerns regarding the stability of democratic systems and the civic capacity of democratic citizens (Williams & Carpini, 2004). 27
  32. 32. Gatekeeping and Agenda Setting in the New Media Era Continuing further, they said ―this new theory introduced (or reinforced) three significant conceptual distinctions: 1. The news media was separated from entertainment media, with the former viewed as most directly responsible for fulfilling the media‘s civic functions. 2. Within the news media, fact would be distinguished from opinion and news reporting would strive to be accurate, objective, and balanced. 3. The public was distinguished from media elites and policy experts, with the former viewed as generally passive, easily manipulated consumers of information and the latter as information gatekeepers who represented the public‘s interest in the construction of political and social reality.‖10 In essence, the social responsibility theory conceded the inevitability of both a centralized, privately owned media and of a less-than-engaged public and transferred much of the civic responsibility of the latter to a new class of information elites. The "truth" about the social and political world was no longer (if indeed it had ever been) constructed out of enlightened public discourse but instead emerged from a more managed and limited exchange among experts in the news media. Citizens were redefined as unsophisticated consumers of information, and the public was redefined as an audience. The ability to maintain these distinctions and institutionalize professional journalists as political gatekeepers was aided from the 1950s through the early 1980s by the relative lack of competition that had led to the development of the social responsibility theory in the first place. For example, during this period, television viewers had the choice of watching one to five channels, most or all of which broadcast news at the same time. Readers of prestige news magazines and newspapers and viewers of public affairs broadcasting were a self-selected segment of the population, a more elite social, economic, and political strata of citizens. This elite audience signalled the serious nature of the content, distinguishing it from "popular" media. What developed were distinctions between the politically important and the politically insignificant based not on analyses of the actual political content and aesthetic worth of media 10 Monica and Bill All the Time and Everywhere: The Collapse of Gatekeeping and Agenda Setting in the New Media Environment. Bruce A Williams; Michael X Delli Carpini. The American Behavioral Scientist (May 2004). Page 1214. 28
  33. 33. Gatekeeping and Agenda Setting in the New Media Era programming but rather on the organization of producing institutions and the make-up of the audience. It has been found that consistent with social responsibility theories of the press, the political agenda has been shaped by the symbiotic relationship that has developed between mainstream political actors and major news outlets (Bennett, 1988). In this relationship, the mainstream news media acted as a monolithic gatekeeper while a limited set of political elites vied with each other to shape this agenda and how it was framed. Within this system, the public was often reduced to a passive consumer whose own attention to and interpretation of events was constrained by this limited information environment. 4.4 The breakdown of gatekeeping in changing media environment The following events have been responsible for the changing media environment of the world over past two decades: 1. The expansion of cable and satellite television, 2. The growth of the Internet and World Wide Web, 3. The horizontal and vertical integration of the media through conglomerates, and 4. The general availability of VCRs and remote television controls The new media environment is distinctive in several ways (Abramson, 1988): 1. The increased volume of information that is available 2. The increased speed with which information can be gathered, retrieved, and transmitted, 3. The increased control given to consumers of the media, 4. The fragmentation of media audiences and the resulting greater ability to target media messages to particular audiences, 5. The greater decentralization of certain aspects of the media, and 6. The greater interactive capacity between consumers and producers of media messages All told, these changes constitute a reshaping of the media environment that easily rivals those leading to the creation of the social responsibility theory and the structural development of the media as gatekeeper. 29
  34. 34. Gatekeeping and Agenda Setting in the New Media Era The aforementioned changes have made it difficult to maintain the always artificial distinction between public affairs and "mere" entertainment, thereby making the social responsibility theory invalid. In addition there has been a convergence of sort between the two for of media. The distinction between fact and opinion or analysis is much less clearly identified by simple rules such as where it appears, who is saying it, or how it is labelled. Public affairs time slots have become overwhelmed by the range of options open to citizens: Traditional news can be gotten any time of the day through cable or the World Wide Web or equally ignored at any time of the day. Even the informal standard operating procedures, routines, and beats that determined newsworthiness have come under serious rethinking both from within and outside the journalistic profession. As audiences themselves absorb these changes and the erosion of formerly commonsense distinctions, they too begin to move freely between genres, eroding the gatekeeping ability of any single group of elites (e.g., ‗serious‘ journalists or political leaders) (Rosen, 1999). The mainstream press in its gatekeeping role operates along a single axis of influence determined by the interaction between political elites and journalists. The new media environment disrupts the single axis system in three ways: 1. The expansion of politically relevant media and the blurring of genres lead to a struggle within the media itself for the role of authoritative gatekeeper. 2. The expansion of media outlets and the obliterating of the normal news cycle have created new opportunities for nonmainstream political actors to influence the setting and framing of the political agenda (Kurtz, 1998). 3. This changed media environment has created new opportunities and pitfalls for the public to enter and interpret the political world. It was noted during Gulf War that 24-hour cable news outlets not only gathered news as rapidly as possible but also broadcast it as rapidly as possible, effectively eliminating the role of editors in the news production process. This left viewers themselves to try to sort out what was "really" happening as the war progressed (Katz J. , 1997). In short, the new media environment creates a multiplicity of gates through which information passes to the public both in terms of the sheer number of sources of information (i.e., Internet, cable television, radio), the speed with which information is transmitted, and the types of genres the public uses for political information (i.e., movies, music, docudramas, talk shows). 30
  35. 35. Gatekeeping and Agenda Setting in the New Media Era These changes create what is called a multiaxiality that "transforms any stability of categories into the fluidities of power" (Fiske, 1996). So, in this new media environment, myriad gates through which information passes create multiple axes of power to influence public opinion. At one level, the collapse of gatekeeping represents a direct attack on the elites (journalists, policy experts, public officials and, academics.) who have served as the arbiters of social and political meaning under the social responsibility theory. To some extent, this responsibility is returning to the public, like they did in old 19th century models of media, as they play a more active role in constructing social and political meaning out of the mix of mediated narratives with which they are presented. But in other ways, the media remains elite dominated, creating new venues through which traditional political elites attempt to shape the political agenda in new ways. Clinton-Lewinsky scandal is taken as one example to illustrate the tension and the pressing need for a new theory of press (Williams & Carpini, 2004). 4.5 Gatekeeping in the new media A mechanism has already begun to play a role of the aggregate gatekeepers of all information (and not just new media) on the internet (Hargittai E. , 2001). These are the information intermediaries, which through various business models help the user locate the right information. Although they are not free of their own commercial interests, yet they have enabled a typical user to comprehend the web in a much more lucid way. Such business models are that of portals like Yahoo! and search engines like Google. Hargittai says, ―Due to the ease with which users could add content to the Web, thanks to the rise in the number of users, and as a result of an increasing number of organizations embracing the Web as a communication tool, the amount of content available online has risen exponentially‖11 (Hargittai E. , 2001). By 2003 this number of websites had grown to more than thirty-five million. Not surprisingly, services that help users find their way to content of interest are crucial to the Web‘s ability to be a useful tool for people. As the amount of Web content skyrocketed, search engines became increasingly important in sifting through online material. The first search engines appeared in the mid-1990s and several of them came out of 11 The Changing Online Landscape: From Free-for-All To Commercial Gatekeeping. Eszter Hargittai. A chapter in Community Practice in the Network Society: Local Actions/Global Interaction (2003). 31
  36. 36. Gatekeeping and Agenda Setting in the New Media Era research universities. In many cases, academic research settings sponsored their creation and their one goal was to help people better navigate Web content. Initially, these sites functioned in one of two ways. Some provided the option of openly searching the Web‘s content (e.g. WebCrawler and Lycos) while others organized information into Web directories and people could access content by clicking on categorized links (e.g. Yahoo). The former relied on computer programs whereas the latter were manually compiled. At this point the one goal seemed to be to feature interesting and high quality content. In time, the ventures left academic settings and became profit-seeking commercial enterprises. Another source of popular portal sites was the default home pages that came up during the use of the most popular browsing software applications, Netscape Navigator and Internet Explorer. At first, those sites offered little more than software upgrades, but soon they grew into much more than a place to download an application. The public support was never sufficient for media businesses. This left the burden of financing these online ventures to other potential sources including individual subscription fees or funding by private foundations. Most online services were funded through advertisements or by venture capitalists. In order to legitimate funding, Web sites had to attract and keep visitors and encourage them to stay and revisit frequently. To achieve this, search engines and portal sites expanded their repertoire of services beyond simply pointing people to content elsewhere on the Web. Instead, they changed their business models to the goal of keeping users on their sites as long as possible. By contracting with large content providers they offered sports information, entertainment news, current events and many other services all under one roof. By 1999, search engines and portal sites dominated the list of most popular Web sites garnering traffic from millions of unique visitors each month, clearly indicating their arrival in the internet era. It was also determined that 85% of users never go beyond the first search page of information. This tendency of most users led to exploitation of commercial interests by search engines. It is in favour of certain search engines to feature a particular website above others in their search results. This has resulted in an entire industry around Search Engine Optimization which helps websites being ranked higher than the others. In light of such an issue, non-profit organizations would often find it difficult to be rated high enough to catch user attention. Given the current state of online content organization and presentation, users must be educated about the myriad of commercial incentives that influence search result listings and 32
  37. 37. Gatekeeping and Agenda Setting in the New Media Era directory placements. They have to be conscious of the fact that the most prominent results are not necessarily the most – or the only – possible sources online in response to their query. Users also have to learn how to do more refined searches and how to turn to a more diverse set of resources online in order to avoid the sidetracks that result from commercial interests. 4.6 Agenda setting for the mass media From its earliest beginnings, agenda setting has systematically sought to document the effects of mass media on public opinion. Its basis exists in the simple fact that, for most issues, the public lacks the ability to witness accounts firsthand and as such, must depend on the media for a second- hand reality (Lippman, 1922). This second-hand reality is firmly based in a pseudo-environment that is created by media attention to specific issues that may or may not have a basis in real-world dynamics. By virtue of creating a shared, national pseudoenvironment, mass media fulfil the important function of building a public consensus on the important issues of the day (McCombs M. , 1997). Since its first appearance in 1972, agenda setting has now matured as a theory to include: 1. A second-level agenda setting component (attribute agenda setting), 2. A psychological component to explain individual-level agenda setting effects (need for orientation), 3. An emphasis on how the media‘s agenda is shaped, and an explanation for the shared news agenda among different media (intermedia agenda setting). Both agenda setting and the competing theory of the two-step flow are significant when discussing the relationship between mainstream media and political blog networks, as well as the relationships that exist among blogs in the networked political blogosphere. 4.6.1 Two-Step Flow The two-step flow theory injected interpersonal communications into how information diffuses from mass media to the general public. The usefulness of this mass communication theory to the political blogosphere is captured by the hyperlink, which is a symbolic representation of an interpersonal connection between two blogs. The initial conceptualization of the model was based on traditional media and face-to-face communications, occurring before the revolution of online communications. 33
  38. 38. Gatekeeping and Agenda Setting in the New Media Era The audience as a mass is conceptualized into a vision of a society connected by a few more knowledgeable people, who were dubbed the ―opinion leaders.‖ These opinion leaders were responsible for shaping the opinions of those more susceptible to influence, called the ―followers.‖ This mediation of mass media messages by the opinion leader would be called the ―two-step flow of communication‖ and this theory would form the basis of the law of minimal consequences that relegated mass media effects to an inconsequential level (Klapper, 1960). Although not much evidence is available in this favour, it can be noted that the opinion leaders were identified by self designation than through an external selection process. From its earliest beginnings, agenda setting has systematically sought to document the effects of mass media on public opinion. Its basis exists in the simple fact that, for most issues, the public lacks the ability to witness accounts firsthand and as such, must depend on the media for a second- hand reality (Lippman, 1922). While the opinion leaders had no role to play in the generation of content earlier, they are now playing an effective role that rivals the media business – that of an influential blogger. The political bloggers that write for these sites can be viewed as opinion leaders. But, what are the characteristics of opinion leaders? Opinion leaders are identified based on three attributes (Katz E. , 1957): 1. The personification of values (who one is), 2. Competence (what one knows), and 3. Strategic social location (whom one knows). Opinion leaders are able to broker information both within and between groups by virtue of their social capital, which allows them to fill the gaps in information and connection between people, bridging what Burt calls ‗structural holes‘ (Burt, 1999). There is also a strong positive relationship between opinion leadership and civic participation. 4.7 Agenda setting in media 4.7.1 Two step flow in old media The agenda setting in traditional media has been largely unidirectional with the mass media being at the top of the pyramid which conveys the issue and perspectives to an opinion leader. 34
  39. 39. Gatekeeping and Agenda Setting in the New Media Era The opinion leader, in turn, communicates it to the readers to make them aware of these issues. The flow of information is much more predictable and straightforward. As explained in the Figure 5 below, the agenda setting in traditional media world originates from the mass media to the opinion leaders. These leaders then disseminate information to the followers who are passive audience. Figure 5: Agenda setting in traditional media. Source: How does Agenda Setting happen in Blogosphere (Meraz, 2007) 4.7.2 Two step flow in new media The new media changes the flow of information as described above in the agenda setting mechanism of traditional media. Now that the ideas and issues can originate from multiple sources, the interaction becomes bidirectional, interactive and complex. The salient features of this model over the model above are: 1. No single owner of content and perspectives 2. Interactivity between the readers and content creator 35
  40. 40. Gatekeeping and Agenda Setting in the New Media Era 3. Abundance of content These are the unique scenarios under which new media works. Surprisingly the issue have been seen to be set both from blogs to the mainstream media and vice versa (Meraz, 2007). Figure 6: Agenda Setting in new media. Source: How does Agenda Setting happen in Blogosphere (Meraz, 2007) As explained in the Figure 6 above, the agenda setting in new world could originate from any of the sources: followers, mass media or opinion leaders. The agenda setting takes no particular predictable path and the entire agenda is set based on whatever the entire aggregate of these players feel needs to be discussed. The interaction between various sources is bidirectional and complex. There is no great need for opinion leaders to disseminate information but they still play an important role in handling the complexity of this information. 36
  41. 41. Digital Divide, Attention Scarcity and Media policy 5. Digital Divide, Attention Scarcity and Media policy Although internet brings with it a promise of equality, commercial interests of most access media on and off it have led to a slew of imperfections. Digital Divide and Attention Scarcity are two of these imperfections that do not let new media take the revolutionary form that Benkler promises. This chapter describes the prevalent digital divide among within different sections of a society and between nations. It then links digital divide through another commercial structures (Portals, Search Engines) around the internet to illustrate how attention scarcity is also responsible to increase the digital divide. In the end a discussion on the possible media policy alternatives would wrap up the chapter. 5.1 Digital Divide With the rise of the Internet‘s importance in all spheres of life there has been an increasing concern regarding the patterns of its diffusion across the population. Reports have documented the presence of an Internet ―digital divide‖, i.e. inequalities in access to and use of the medium, with lower levels of connectivity among women, racial and ethnic minorities, people with lower incomes, rural residents and less educated people. Some have cautioned that the differential spread of the Internet will lead to increasing inequalities benefiting those who are already in advantageous positions and denying access to better resources to the underprivileged. This is called the ―Matthew Effect‖ according to which ―unto everyone who hath shall be given‖ whereby initial advantages translate into increasing returns over time (Merton, 1973). Mass media seem to reinforce knowledge gaps across the population. With respect to the Web, the Matthew effect predicts that those having more experience with technologies and more exposure to various communication media will benefit more from the Web by using it in a more sophisticated manner and for more types of information retrieval. 5.2 Digital Inequality As more people start using the Web for communication and information retrieval, it becomes less useful to merely look at binary classifications of who is online when discussing questions of inequality in relation to the Internet. Rather, we need to start looking at differences in how those who are online access and use the medium. It is suggested that the term ―digital inequality‖ better encompasses the various dimensions along which differences will exist even after access to the medium is nearly universal (DiMaggio, 2001). 37
  42. 42. Digital Divide, Attention Scarcity and Media policy Some scholars have suggested ways in which we need to distinguish between different types of Internet use. Divides can be distinguished at three levels: 1. The global divide which encompasses differences among industrialized and lesser developed nations, 2. The social divide which points to inequalities among the population within one nation, and 3. A democratic divide which refers to the differences among those who do and do not use digital technologies to engage and participate in public life. Further, there are four components of full social access: 1. Financial access which indicates whether users (individuals or whole communities) can afford connectivity, 2. Cognitive access which considers whether people are trained to use the medium, and find and evaluate the type of information for which they are looking 3. Production of content access which looks at whether there is enough material available that suits users‘ needs; and 4. Political access which takes into account whether users have access to the institutions that regulate the technologies they are using. There are factors (skill) beyond mere connectivity that need to be considered when discussing the potential implications of the Internet for inequality. In addition to relying on basic measures of access to a medium, we need to consider the following more nuanced measures of use (Hargittai E. , 2003): 1. Technical means (quality of the equipment): People who have access to top quality computers with good and reliable Internet connections at home or at work are much more likely to exhibit high levels of sophistication than those without access to such technical resources. 2. Autonomy of use (location of access, freedom to use the medium for one‘s preferred activities): Although theoretically many people have access to the Internet at a public library, access remains easiest for those who are connected through home or work computers. 3. Social support networks (availability of others one can turn to for assistance with use, size of networks to encourage use): Although theoretically many people have access to 38
  43. 43. Digital Divide, Attention Scarcity and Media policy the Internet at a public library, access remains easiest for those who are connected through home or work computers. There is an emphasis on the importance of social support networks in the spread of new technologies. Those with exposure to innovations in their surroundings are more likely to adopt new technologies such as personal computers. The availability of friends and family who are also Internet users provides support for problems encountered while using the medium and is also a source of new knowledge via advice and recommendations. 4. Experience (number of years using the technology, types of use patterns): Experience is a relevant dimension to consider because it tells us whether people are investing time in a technology to become familiar enough with it for convenient and efficient use. These four factors together contribute to one‘s level of skill. Skill is defined as the ability to efficiently and effectively use the new technology. When considering the potential implications of the Internet for social inequality, we must focus on people‘s ability to use the technology effectively and efficiently (in other words, skill). But how is it possible that skill is a relevant factor when it comes to Internet use given that material posted online – all billions of pages worth – is equally available to all users via the correct Web address? Once the correct Web address is entered, the data are accessed and the information is readily available. But how does a user find the particular Web site? A large portion of these billions of Web pages is available on the Web for public use. Any individual or organization with the know-how to create a site can contribute content to the public Web. The technicalities of making such content as available to users as the most popular Web sites are more or less the same. However, information abundance still leaves the problem of attention scarcity. Attention scarcity leads individual creators of content to rely on online gatekeepers to channel their material toward users and leads users to rely on such services to find their way to content on the Web. Web services, like Portal and Search Engines, that categorize online information can be considered gatekeepers on the World Wide Web. As discussed in the previous chapter, this gatekeeping capability of an internet user is not without influence of commercial interest. Although the users are becoming smarter to avoid these, mot users still cannot differentiate between a very well ‗search engine optimized‖ website and a site that genuinely provides useful content. 39
  44. 44. Digital Divide, Attention Scarcity and Media policy There is, thus, a strong need to understand and regulate the commercial nature of new media technologies in favour of creation of more inclusive policy environment. This makes a strong case of new media policy by the governments of the world. It is in their interest as more access to new media has generally led to better participatory democracy. 5.3 Digital Divide and Democracy Digital divide debate started from the premise that the differential access to new media will weaken the citizens‘ capacity to participate in the democratic process. There is a a strong case of a communication entitlement for the deprived sections of the society. This entitlement should then be drawn from the ultimate end of the public policy. One of these ends is proposed by economist and philosopher Amartya Sen (Couldry, 2007). Sen argues that economic goals and the value of market functioning must be subordinated to a more fundamental value-the achievement of good for humanity. In determining what is good for humanity, we must abstract from the many choices between rival goods that each person must be free to make for herself. While some goods are absolute-such as food and housingothers are matters of individual choice, so a good life is measured not by such goods‘ actual distribution, but by whether people have the "capability," through their choices from among such goods, to "achieve functionings that he or she has reason to value." Sen‘s concept of "functionings" provides stability amid the diversity of possible goods by pointing to underlying dimensions of human achievement that might generally be valued. These range from bodily health to self-respect to making choices about the development of one‘s life tocrucially, for the link to democracy-participation in the "life of the community," to use Sen‘s phrase. These functionings, Sen argues, are "constitutive elements of human well-being" (Amartya Sen, 1995). Hence, we can argue that, in a typical modern society, some basic level of access to communicative resources is part of these key functionings. As increasing volumes of information and participative resources move online, the ability not merely to access but to use and contribute to these resources effectively becomes crucial to participation in the life of the community. That is, correcting for the digital divide does more than extend markets and bring wider participation in the digital economy. By meeting citizens‘ communicative entitlements, it contributes to a life that we have reason to value. 40
  45. 45. Digital Divide, Attention Scarcity and Media policy The concept of communicative entitlement to capture the basic level of access to communicative resources needed for each of us to have any possibility of participating in the decisions that affect us: if national citizens need their communicative entitlements fulfilled, so too do potential global citizens. But the digital divide debate teaches us the difficulty of specifying what level of communicative entitlement is sufficient to enhance people‘s capacities to enable them to act as effective participants in the decisions that affect them. Fortunately, the new media environment itself is a great stimulus for bold thinking about how the political process might be reconfigured. New media offer an experimental zone for new versions of the political on all scales, and I have offered some preliminary thoughts in this direction. The solution to the problem of digital divide involves more than fixing the communications infrastructure; it involves governments recognizing as a vital part of the political process the engagements that citizens make through their use of the communications resources available to them. If governments fail to make that recognition, there is a risk that the horizon of democratic politics-and its contribution (as Amartya Sen might put it) to a life that we can value-will recede. And then, nothing could be done about it. 5.4 Attention Economy Attentions scarcity due to regenerative capacity of the internet got its first attention only about a decade back (Goldhaber, 1997). He says information, especially on the net, is not only abundant, but overflowing. But more subtly, he argues ―there is something else that moves through the Net, flowing in the opposite direction from information, namely attention. So seeking attention could be the very incentive we are looking for (that can make an economy run).‖12 He says further, ―Attention, at least the kind we care about, is an intrinsically scarce resource‖ (Goldhaber, 1997) . It is on the basis of getting attention that the entire new economy works. It is argued that although socialization of material goods may be possible, but socialization of attention and, hence, prominence if utterly impossible. He says that Prominence is an essentially distinguishing quality. In contrast to material wealth, prominence cannot become a mass phenomenon. And yet: never has there been so much prominence as today; never has 12 The Attention Economy and the Net, Michael Goldhaber, First Monday (April 1997), Page 2 41

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