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Gatekeepers with no Gates

Social scientists say the media impacts our lives in four ways: 1) by presenting a possible agenda (whatever is presented in media is accepted as “the truth” and as a reflection of the society; in the process, media confers status on issues, persons, organizations, social movements hence a person observing may grasp the agenda but not the “real content” of what is being presented or viewed); 2) by suggesting acceptable norms and culture (through repetitious exposure to a particular theme presented in the media people may have the tendency to have the same perspective as that is being suggested by the medium); 3) by providing a model or a replica of the world (what one usually sees represented by media, is eventually copied or reprinted in the minds of the listeners or the viewers and later becomes a part of the person or the culture); and 4) creating an apathetic attitude (people tend to replace “active” participation with passive pseudo-experience (i.

e. one sees the world as presented on TV and in print and not as how it really happened with the people involved in a specific events). Basing on the aforementioned, it might seem that instead of media reflecting the society, society mirrors media. In effect, media becomes a powerful tool of any corporation or entity presenting that “reality” to be perceived as the “real thing. ” Conroy (2004) calls this process where as an “approximation of the reality or life in a frame. ” When we refer to mass media we are referring to several separate avenue that are used to disseminate information throughout Gatekeepers with no Gates 2 the world (i. e.

TV, radio, film, print, photography (considered as part of the “old media”) and electronic (or the internet), which is considered as the “new media. ” Media, whatever form it takes is something that has invaded every home and has become a significant part of one’s existence. Technology advances as years passed and since the world was introduced to the idea of a global village through the inquiring and provocative thoughts presented by Marshall McLuhan, people slowly changed their choice of medium through which reality is created. In the process, the internet (consequently, the internet) outpaced earlier mediums. This “new medium”…is fast becoming simply, “the” media for many millions of people in an increasingly interconnected world” (in New Media 10).

With the increasing popularity of this new medium is the corresponding state of the media that continues to consolidate into the hands of larger corporations. In recent decades, the competition between Media corporations has transformed the way that they are managed. According to Frank A. Blethen, the publisher and CEO of the Seattle Times Co. , the following things have happened in the Media. “Convergence”… “Concentration”… “Commercialization”…”Trivialization. ” (Gaut, 2004) The Media Reform Information Center provides a general progression of this conglomeration which resulted to the emergence of the “Big Five” in 2004. “In 1983, 50 corporations controlled the vast majority of all news media in the U.

S…In 2004…only 5 huge corporations — Time Warner, Disney, Murdoch’s News Corporation, Bertelsmann of Germany, and Viacom (formerly CBS) — now control most of the media industry in the U. S. General Electric’s NBC is a close sixth (Media Reform 2004). ” These corporate- Gatekeepers with no Gates 3 owned media, Conroy, a former gatekeeper testifies, are operated through an intricate system of gatekeepers who are aligned in a hierarchical order and who keep a close watch on the keys to the gates. And at the highest levels of this gate-keeping system, the line between doing good journalism and making lots of money is so thin that it is easily crossed over by those who put greed before honor (Conroy, 2004).

We’ll pause for a moment to consider one of the media conglomerates in the world—Time Warner, a leading media and entertainment company with businesses that include interactive services, cable systems, filmed entertainment, television networks and publishing. The company is headquartered in New York, New York and is publicly traded on the New York Stock Exchange under the TWX ticker symbol. As the world’s largest media conglomerate, Time Warner employs over 92,000 employees, and operates worldwide through its seven divisions: America Online (AOL), Home Box Office (HBO), Turner Broadcasting System, Time Inc, New Line Cinema, and Warner Brothers Entertainment. Time Warner’s beginnings may be traced as far as 1922.

Renamed Warner Communications, Quantum Computer Services launched to become America online in 1992. In 1990, Time Inc. merged with Warner Communications to become Time Warner. Then in 1996, Time Warner acquired Ted Turner’s Broadcasting System. America Online acquired CompuServe in 1998 and then Netscape Communications in 1999. Later in 2001, America Online acquired Time Warner to become AOL Time Warner. The name was shortened to Time Warner in 2002 in an effort to draw away attention from the Gatekeepers with no Gates 4 enormous losses AOL were reporting. Time Warner has been gradually selling off some of its business, such as Warner Music Group in 2002, and Time Warner Book Group in 2006.

In its history, Richard Parsons, a lawyer-turned-banker is Time Warner’s CEO from May 2002 to December 2007 (Time Warner, n. d. ). To describe how he was during his tenure, the company’s info site testifies: “As CEO, Mr. Parsons led Time Warner’s turnaround and set the company on a solid path toward achieving sustainable growth. In the process, he put in place the industry’s most experienced and successful management team, strengthened the company’s balance sheet and simplified its corporate structure, and carried out a disciplined approach to realigning the company’s portfolio of assets to improve returns. In its January 2005 report on America’s Best CEOs, Institutional Investor magazine named Mr. Parsons the top CEO in the entertainment industry. ”

This view was also echoed in Derek Dingle’s article which reports his interview with the former CEO (2009). One of the biographies describes him as “the friendly giant” and asserts that Parsons became to be known as the “consummate gentleman executive. ” “He intellectualizes outcomes and gets people to agree with his outcomes” (Richard Parsons’ Biography). It was only a year after AOL merged with Time Warner. This merger “did make history as the largest corporate purchase ever it also became known as perhaps the most failed mega merger on record” (Ibid). Parsons, having been with Time Warner prior to the merger, still accepted the post as CEO, which made his post even more challenging.

One of the remarkable act he made as Time Warner’s CEO is the renaming of the Company from AOL Time Warner to Time Warner. “Renaming our company will strengthen the identity of the AOL brand name among consumers,” the CEO said in a written statement reported on CNNMoney. com. “America Online is an Gatekeepers with no Gates 5 important part of our company and we expect it to continue to make major contributions to our success in the future” (Ibid). In 2004, Parsons was awarded the Better Chance Corporate Award, an annual honor bestowed by the organization A Better Chance, which, according to Hispanic PRWire, “identifies, recruits, and develops leaders among academically gifted students of color.

” According to Better Chance president Sandra Timmons, as quoted by Hispanic PRWire, “Richard Parsons serves as a role model for aspiring executives of all races, but his success has earned him a special leadership role among African Americans. ” (Ibid) Although nowhere in the biographies written about him and other materials describing his term that explains in detail his strategy or plans of actions, we caught him saying, “The CEO’s job is to make sure that the company is always where it needs to be to maximize its competitive advantages (Dingle, 2009), which serves as a sounding board of Time Warner’s CEO Gerald Levin, who predicted global media would become the dominant industry of the 21st century — (Global Media Giants, 2000).

Considering this, one may conclude that his actions while the company’s CEO are directed to this particular end. Since he is considered as the gatekeeper of Time Warner at that time and since his actions is directed at making the company one of leaders in global media, we may assume then that he would like take the necessary steps toward achieving that goal, including the gatekeeping of information to suit the company’s directives. Now we go back to our earlier discussion on the gatekeeping phenomenon. Does this imply that in the process of gatekeeping people’s perception of reality has been jeopardized? As earlier pointed out mass media has become a vital and inevitable element Gatekeepers with no Gates 6

of man’s existence, and since it is just an approximation (reality depends on who decides what details about reality is demarcated and what is not), should we say then that the gatekeepers have a hold over our destiny? When and how did the idea of “gatekeeping” started? Although it was first used in 1950 by White and has now been a part of peoples’ consciousness for more than 50 years (Gatekeeping). The gatekeeper’s choices are a complex web of influences, preferences, motives and common values. Gatekeeping though is inevitable since in some circumstances it can be useful, it can also be dangerous, since it can lead to an abuse of power by deciding what information to discard and what to let pass (Ibid).

Andrews (2009) specify the rationale behind this phenomenon as considering “production value,” of a particular material that is intended for mass production and presentation. According to him, “traditionally there have been legitimate reasons for packaging information. Because content was necessarily circumscribed by length, largely out of consideration for distribution and cost, decisions had to be made on what a physical product should contain” (Ibid). Although we could not escape the fact that the internet “was not designed to protect message confidentiality” (New Media, 2007) as well as user’s privacy, in addition to the fact that there are gatekeepers who undeniably control most of the information that we retrieved from it and from the different media forms, we could be our own gatekeepers nonetheless.

We should be reminded that we are equipped with the necessary tools to deal with this problem. Stowe (2006) points to the various authorities or powers Gatekeepers with no Gates 7 as: institutional, individual, emergent and machine all pointing out to an individual’s power of choice. “Gradually, things are changing. Not because of any enlightenment on the part of the gatekeepers. Instead, the reading/listening/viewing public is rewarding new approaches that resist conventional media filters. Web-influenced media based on the concept of the raw feed are subtly but radically transforming the way we conduct all information transferal (Andrews, Ibid).

In addition to this the recently launched Bill titled as “Internet Freedom Preservation Act of 2008” (HR 5353) gives internet user more security and “hope to the millions of Americans who have called for action to ensure that the public — not phone and cable companies — control the fate of the Internet” (Karr, 2008) since the new bill requires the Federal Communications Commissions (FCC) to actively protect the free-flowing Internet from gatekeepers, enforcing protections that “guard against unreasonable discriminatory favoritism for, or degradation of, content by network operators based upon its source, ownership, or destination on the Internet” (Ibid).

Now even if the big players succeed in narrowing our options, they are facing the challenge of playing the game a little differently. With interactive TV, with Internet-based communication, with linked technologies, people have more opportunities to select, or deselect, to discover or to exclude, to confront or to escape, even to develop alternative communications networks, than they ever have had. To end, we will put an end to the perceived fear brought about the concept of gatekeeping as we are reminded by Edward Murrow who stressed that “No one can terrorize a whole nation, unless we are all his accomplices. ” Gatekeepers with no Gates 8 We may now be gatekeepers without gates.

References:

Andrews Paul. “Who Are Your Gatekeepers? ”( Retrieved March 30, 2009) http://www. scripting. com/davenet/2001/03/30/whoAreYourGatekeepers. html c. 1994- 2004 by Dave Winer Boyd, Stowe. (January 20, 2006). “Who Are The New Media Gatekeepers. ” Retrieved March 27, 2009 from Stowe Boyd’s Blogsite http://www. stoweboyd. com/message/2006/01/who_are_the_new. html Conroy, Bill. (June 17, 2004) “Confessions of a Media Gatekeeper” Retrieved March 27, 2009 from Narco Online News Bulletin : http://www. narconews. com/Issue33/article1001. html Derek T. Dingle “Parsons’ time: in an exclusive interview, Time Warner Chairman Richard D.

Parsons discusses his business accomplishments, his new role, and diversity in corporate America”. Black Enterprise. FindArticles. com. 30 Mar, 2009. http://findarticles. com/p/articles/mi_m1365/is_7_38/ai_n24355935 Gaut, Cameron. “Mass Media: Democracy Undermined” Retrieved March 30, 2009 from Thought. com Website: http://www. modcam. com/thought/essays/democracy. html “Gatekeeping. ”http://www. tcw. utwente. nl/theorieenoverzicht/Theory%20clusters/Media ,%20Culture%20and%20Society/gatekeeping. doc/ Karr, Timothy. (February 12, 2008). “Open Internet Bill A Blow to the Gatekeepers” Retrieved March 31, 2009 from : http://www. huffingtonpost.

com/timothy- karr/open-internet-bill-a-blow_b_86329. html James, Barry. Publication Editor. New Media The Press Freedom Dimension. (February 14, 2007) Retrieved March 29, 2009 from : http://unesdoc. unesco. org/images/0015/001520/152017e. pdf Media Reform Information Center. (2004) http://www. corporations. org/media/ Gatekeepers with no Gates 9 ‘Richard D. Parsons: Management’. Retrieved March 31, 2009 from TimeWarner. com Website: http://www. timewarner. com/corp/management/corp_executives/bio/parsons_richa rd. html “Richard Parson’s Biography. ” Retrieved March 31, 2009 from NotableBiographies. com Website: http://www. notablebiographies. com/news/Ow-Sh/Parsons-Richard. html

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