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date: 22 September 2023

Gatekeeping, Technology, and Polarizationlocked

Gatekeeping, Technology, and Polarizationlocked

  • Stuart N. SorokaStuart N. SorokaDepartment of Communication, University of California Los Angeles
  •  and Mia CarboneMia CarboneDepartment of Communication, University of California Los Angeles

Summary

Research on media gatekeeping is focused on the factors leading to a distribution of information in media content that is systematically different from the “real world.” Early gatekeeping work examined editorial decisions, and emphasized the effect that a single editor’s preferences and beliefs could have on the content new consumers receive. The literature has gradually shifted to focus on more generalizable factors, however. These include organization-level assessments of newsworthiness and commercial/economic considerations; broader system-level factors including the impact of dominant ideologies and political and social norms; and common individual-level factors, including a range of cognitive and psychological biases. This article summarizes research on each of these factors, alongside recent work that uses a “distributional” approach to illustrate the gatekeeping process.

The tendency for humans to prioritize negative over positive information is one cognitive bias that can be understood as a gatekeeping effect, and so this bias is discussed briefly here as one example of a set of organization-, system-, and individual-level “gates” that have a systematic impact on news content. Negativity is just one example, however. The impact that various cognitive and institutional biases have on news provision and consumption has shifted over time alongside technological change. Sensationalism, violence, and politically divisive content—all of these elements of media coverage can be considered effectively using the gatekeeping metaphor. This is the focus of the penultimate section of this article.

Subjects

  • Political Communication

Updated in this version

The negativity bias emphasis in the chapter was reduced, and the consideration of technological change and political polarization was increased.

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