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Journalistic Practice, Platforms, and the Future of Media Power

Mon, August 13, 10:30am to 12:10pm, Philadelphia Marriott Downtown, Floor: Level 4, 413


In considering the breadth of implications posed by the opening up of the journalistic field to increasing influence from networked publics, this paper summarizes and assesses the significance of changes to gatekeeping, gatewatching, and gatecrashing processes. This includes a discussion of professional and citizen journalists’ use of Twitter to gather and share news, critique it, as well to hold media institutions accountable for violations of the public trust. It also considers how related changes in journalistic capital, norms, and values in the age of Twitter demonstrate hybridity across fields and bolster change within them. After reviewing these changing dynamics at each level, this paper contends with the larger shifts that are underway. It argues that we are witnessing the emergence of a “mediatized superstructure” that alters the dynamics of media power. This includes a brief reflection on how the field’s structures, as well as the accordant “elements of practice,” are being adapted to suit an increasingly hybrid, interactive field. Finally, the paper considers key challenges American journalism will face going forward. While the ongoing mediatization of society affords significant power to networked publics, the hegemony of legacy and digital news institutions remains considerable. Through hidden algorithms that determine what news and views users are exposed to, which are often guided by political and economic goals, social media platforms are acting more and more like traditional gatekeepers. This marks the enduring paradox of American journalism in the 21st century: what networked power giveth, institutional power can taketh away, and vice versa.