My 2005 book Gatewatching: Collaborative Online News Production presented the concept of gatewatching as an alternative to conventional gatekeeping. It charted the emergence and early history of citizen journalism and its practices, and examined a number of leading sites in the field, as of 2005 – but the past ten years have seen considerable further developments, including especially the advent of several globally adopted social media platforms including Facebook and Twitter.
These platforms have impacted in important ways on industrial and citizen journalism and related journalistic and para-journalistic practices – and, adapted to the specific affordances of these social media spaces, gatewatching processes have arguably become even more widespread and influential. Social media users now engage almost instinctively in collective and collaborative gatewatching processes as they respond to major breaking news stories, as well as in their day-to-day sharing of interesting articles with their social media contacts; existing media outlets are increasingly seeking to maximise the shareability of their stories via social media, and a number of new players (such as Buzzfeed) are fundamentally built around providing ‘viral’ content, thus in essence optimising their offerings in anticipation of audiences’ evaluation and selection of content through gatewatching; and the new channels of news diffusion via social media which are emerging in the process may in fact require us to fundamentally change how we conceptualise the structure of the public sphere.
This presentation outlines how gatewatching and related citizen-journalistic practices evolved over the course of the past ten years, and developing a framework for understanding news production and engagement in the present environment, where social media play a crucial role as disseminators of news and information. It offers a first glimpse of the themes which will be addressed in full in my next book, Gatewatching Revisited: News Curation in the Social Media Age.