What the new titans of media mean for America

The Hill
December 1, 2017

Just a few decades ago, citizens who wanted to stay on top of the daily news had a narrow range of options.

They could read a newspaper, watch an evening network newscast, or maybe just have a conversation with a trusted neighbor or co-worker. Today, the digital world today has created a Wild West of information resources. One could question, however, whether we’re really more informed compared to pre-digital news consumers.

Much depends on the quality of the gatekeepers who determine what news topics get traction in the public mindset. Those media agenda setters used to be grizzled, professional journalists who understood news and public dialogue. Sure, power was centralized in the hands and heads of powerful news editors of the big television networks, wire service and major dailies. But, at least, they were journalists who had some conception of their civic duties as public surrogates and had the noses to sniff out news of substance.

Today, the gatekeeping role of establishing the national news conversation falls increasingly on social media sites, search engines and news aggregator web sites. The backgrounds and motivations of the technical whiz kids should give the nation pause to consider the broader implications of this newfound influence.

A handful of elite websites — the top four, respectively, Google, Facebook, Twitter and the Drudge Report — are transforming the public sphere. They wield tremendous power as the leading “referrers” of news content on the web. News narratives in the broader sphere now rely heavily on the traction that evolves from these titans of industry as more and more Americans say they rely on social media for getting their “news” of the day.

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This article was posted: Friday, December 1, 2017 at 10:52 am

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