Curators vs. Gatekeepers: My opinion may have shifted

Once upon a time, I had a bit of a tiff with Neil Steinberg on Facebook. Actually, I’m sure there wasn’t just one tiff. Being, generally speaking, on opposite sides of the political spectrum and from very different generations, I believe he and I had more than a few disagreements. You can do the same of course. Unless things have changed, Neil is very likely to respond and, I must admit, respond thoughtfully.

The particular argument that I recall dealt with the topic that so many are enamored with now: mainstream media’s seeming inability to function in the new digital reality. Mind you, we were having this discussion even before the recession hit in earnest and took with it so many advertising dollars upon which newspapers and other printed publications depend.

I don’t recall anymore what sparked it, but somehow Neil and I started talking about bloggers stealing journalists’ work, the low newspaper readership among young people and other such things that signaled (or caused) the breakdown of mainstream media’s thought leadership. “But we don’t WANT to be told what to think and read!” I stubbornly insisted. Surely growing exasperated with me, Neil asked who or what I would turn to for reliable, fact-based information. YouTube videos my friends sent me?

Back then of course I was typical of my generation. In other words, I was righteous, angry, self-assured, eager to burn down the old world and hellbent on destroying anything resembling authority. Thus I fumed at the very suggestion that one of the roles professional journalists and the media organizations that employ them play is to be the arbiters of what is newsworthy or what deserves the public’s attention.

Back then I lacked the vocabulary to know that what we were talking about was whether media professionals should be gatekeepers or curators of information and news. I was then a proponent of the latter. Nowdays, I’m not so sure. Which side do you come down on? Are you with Chris Anderson, Jeff Jarvis and a huge legion of others? Or are you with the likes of the Telegraph’s Andrew Keen? Or is a compromise possible?

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