Gatekeeping Sociology Term Papers

Gatekeeping was one of many theories applied to the new doctoral-level academic field of communications, mass communication, and journalism in the 1950s and 1960s. During this period, the first PhDs in communication were graduated. Many degree holders became university professors, expected to teach and study their new field. They were influenced by the theories that had been introduced by their doctoral faculty, who had come from the social sciences, especially psychology, sociology, social psychology, political science, and anthropology. So it is no coincidence that gatekeeping’s father, Kurt Lewin, was a psychologist turned social psychologist. This interdisciplinary social science perspective broadened the study of mass communication beyond the narrow confines of professionally oriented journalism schools. The earliest texts mentioned in this section illustrate the type of scholarly works occurring in the same time frame that gatekeeping was proposed and that were influential in interpreting it. In 1927, Harold Lasswell published a study of propaganda campaigns in World War I to better understand the decision-making processes through which such materials developed. This study set the stage for later forays into gatekeeping research. Lewin’s gatekeeping theory was introduced some twenty years later in a two-part article in Human Relations (Lewin 1947). In this piece, Lewin introduced gatekeeping theory as a way to conceptualize the food consumption practices of post–World War II households. In his conclusions, however, Lewin notes that this type of understanding could be applied to media and news consumption as well. Shortly after the introduction of gatekeeping, the authors of Hovland, et al. 1953 studied the context of persuasion and its characteristics, revealing the influence of gatekeepers in message creation and its effects. Further research on decision making is found in Lazarsfeld and Katz 1955, which hypothesized the two-step flow of communication, namely that information flows in a top-down manner from media to opinion leaders to the general population. This top-down approach is prevalent in early gatekeeping studies. Schramm 1960 suggests that gatekeepers move information through both mediated and interpersonal chains. Later texts directed the study of news and its selection. A prime example is Tuchman 1978, which exposes the world of journalists and news selection. Tuchman 1978 highlights the gatekeeping processes used in deciding how to categorize and report news. Shoemaker 1991 introduced communications gatekeeping theory back to the world of social sciences. The author adapted Lewin’s original model to consider the influence from societal, institutional, organizational, routine, and individual practices in gatekeeping channels. Ten years later, Reese and Ballinger 2001 provides insight into the world of gatekeeping in an in-depth analysis and review of two of media sociology’s great works: David Manning White’s “The Gate Keeper” (see White 1950, cited under A Gatekeeping Model for News) and Warren Breed’s “Social Control in the Newsroom” (see Breed 1955, cited under Media Sociology). In the most recent iteration of gatekeeping theory, Shoemaker and Vos 2009 provides a sweeping overview of the many aspects of gatekeeping. This work not only includes insights into levels of analysis (see Shoemaker and Reese 2013, cited under A Gatekeeping Model for News) and unique gatekeeping concepts, but also brings gatekeeping into the modern age of the Internet.

  • Hovland, Carl I., Irving L. Janis, and Harold H. Kelley. 1953. Communication and persuasion. New Haven, CT: Yale Univ. Press.

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    Hovland and colleagues were part of the first generation of communication and attitude change research. Their study examined the factors influencing persuasion, including characteristics of the message, the communicator, and the situation. This study discussed how message reception is affected by outside influences and reveals how the choices of content creators—gatekeepers—can directly or indirectly sway audiences.

  • Lasswell, Harold D. 1927. Propaganda technique in the World War. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.

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    Lasswell examined propaganda in World War I in order to identify the procedures involved in organizing and executing propaganda campaigns. His study set the stage for scholarly communication and gave insight into ideas that would later develop gatekeeping research. The processes through which a propagandist operation was developed relied heavily on key decision makers and various strategic points in communication, foreshadowing what Lewin 1947 and White 1950 (cited under A Gatekeeping Model for News) would later call gatekeepers and gates.

  • Lazarsfeld, Paul F., and Elihu Katz. 1955. Personal influence: The part played by people in the flow of mass communications. Glencoe, IL: Free Press.

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    In this work, Lazarsfeld and Katz explicated their two-step flow model of communication. The book focused on a 1948 study conducted by the Bureau of Applied Social Research in which eight hundred women in Decatur, Illinois, were interviewed and surveyed about who or what influenced their decision making. It was discovered that face-to-face communications could be more influential than media communications, with information traveling from media to opinion leaders to the public.

  • Lewin, Kurt. 1947. Frontiers in group dynamics: Channels of group life; social planning and action research. Human Relations 1–2:5–41.

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    See also pp. 143–153. In this two-part article, Lewin introduced the key concepts of gatekeeping as they affected social change in post–World War II food choices. He presented two channels through which food could come to the table—the garden and the grocery. For either channel, the cook was gatekeeper and, within each channel were sections (such as transporting food) preceded by a gate, or decision point. Lewin felt that this arrangement could also apply to the traveling of news items through communication channels.

  • Reese, Stephen D., and Jane Ballinger. 2001. The roots of a sociology of news: Remembering Mr. Gates and social control in the newsroom. Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly 78.4: 641–658.

    DOI: 10.1177/107769900107800402E-mail Citation »

    This article delves into two of media sociology’s most prolific works: David Manning White’s “The Gate Keeper” and Warren Breed’s “Social Control in the Newsroom.” Reese and Ballinger not only provide insight into these two perspectives to media sociology, but also provide background as to how media sociology and theories like gatekeeping came about in the first place through founders such as Lazarsfeld, Lasswell, and Lewin.

  • Schramm, Wilbur. 1960. Mass communications. Urbana: Univ. of Illinois Press.

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    In 1960 Wilbur Schramm wrote that gatekeepers move information through “media chains” and “interpersonal chains.” He posited that human beings have the ability to intake information, evaluate it, and act on it, or not. Today we see that these chains and their participants connect in an entirely new way—moving information from one to another, overlapping and integrating into a new journalism in which reporters and officials have many more sources of information than ever before.

  • Shoemaker, Pamela J. 1991. Gatekeeping: Communication concepts 3. Newbury Park, CA: SAGE.

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    This book brought gatekeeping into the mainstream of social science research, considering influences on the process from individuals, routine practices of the news media, media organizations, social institutions, and social systems. Shoemaker developed a series of models to illustrate the many processes that affect gates and gatekeepers.

  • Shoemaker, Pamela J., and Tim P. Vos. 2009. Gatekeeping theory. New York: Routledge.

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    This book is the most ambitious overview of gatekeeping to date. It applied the organizing principle of levels of analysis, but it also includes individual chapters on gatekeeping concepts. The authors also brought gatekeeping into the age of the Internet, a time when some scholars are suggesting that gatekeeping is no longer appropriate.

  • Tuchman, Gaye. 1978. Making news. New York: Free Press.

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    Gaye Tuchman observed the work of many journalists for years, including at a major city television station, at newspapers, and in a city hall newsroom. She studied the processes and routines that were used by journalists to produce the news each day, and she noted that the categorization of news was necessary for journalists to manage their job. The assigning of a category, however, influenced how the event was covered. Tuchman’s work emphasizes that how an event is shaped in the media channel is largely a function of the routine practices of the medium.

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    Term
    Definition
    Print and electronic means of communication that carry messages to widespread audiences.
    Term
    What is narcotizing dysfunction?
    Definition
    The phenomenon in which the mass media provide such massive amounts of coverage that the audience becomes numb and fails to act on the information regardless of how compelling the issue.
    Term
    Definition
    The process by which a relatively small number of people in the media industry control what material eventually reaches the audience.
    Term
    What is dominant ideology?
    Definition
    A set of cultural beliefs and practices that helps to maintain powerful social, economic, and political interests.
    Term
    Definition
    An unreliable generalization about all members of a group that does not recognize individual differences within the group.
    Term
    Who is an opinion leader?
    Definition
    Someone who influences the opinions and decisions of others through day-to-day personal contact and communication.
    Term
    What can the media do besides reinforcing proper behavior?
    Definition
    May endorse illicit activity, such as physical violence or drug abuse.
    Term
    What did a federal television law do in 1997?
    Definition
    For every minute the government bought, there had to be an anti-drug commercial... Didn't go over so well.
    Term
    Definition
    Sets in sometime after a tragedy, such as a natural disaster or family crisis.
    Term
    What percent of the largest radio stations are government owned?
    Definition
    Term
    What percentage of television show characters are white non-hispanics?
    Definition
    Term
    What is the one exception to the centralization and concentration of the media?
    Definition
    Term
    Who tries to monitor media content that crosses the borders of developing nations?
    Definition
    Term
    Who examines the media on the micro level to see how they shape day-to-day behavior?
    Definition
    Term
    Who created the term narcotizing dysfunction?
    Definition
    Paul Lazarsfeld and Robert Merton.
    Term
    Which perspective contends that television distorts the political process?
    Definition
    The conflict perspective.
    Term
    Which two theorists are concerned about victims depicted in violent imagery being given less respect in real life?
    Definition
    Conflict theorists and Feminist theorists.
    Term
    What percent of viewers said that there is too much violence on television.
    Definition
    Term
    Sociologist consider the mass media to include what?
    Definition
    Newspapers, magazines, television, radio, books, and the internet.
    Term
    What is the most obvious function of mass media?
    Definition
    Term
    Who would say the mass media increases social cohesion by presenting a more or less standardized, common view of culture through mass communication?
    Definition
    Term
    What type of theorist is Robert Park. And what did he do?
    Definition
    Robert Park is a functionalist. He studied how newspapers helped immigrants to the US adjust to their environment easier.
    Term
    There are problems inherent in the socialization function of the mass media. Many people worry about what?
    Definition
    The effect of using the television as a "babysitter" and the impact of violent programming on viewer behavior.
    Term
    What was linked to increases in substance use among youths during the 1990s?
    Definition
    Proliferation of pro-use messages from the entertainment industry.
    Term
    What sociological perspective is especially concerned with the media's ability to decide what gets transmitted through gatekeeping?
    Definition
    The conflict perspective.
    Term
    In which media is gatekeeping not so dominant?
    Definition
    The internet. It is harder to watch everyone.
    Term
    In the US, the gatekeeping process is in the hands of whom?
    Definition
    Private individuals who desire to maximize profits.
    Term
    Which of the following is an example of television creating false images or stereotypes of subordinate groups which become accepted as accurate portrayals of reality?
    Definition
    All white cast in an ethnically diverse city, blacks being repeatedly portrayed with large crime rates' latinos rarely being present in any tv program.
    Term
    Why should it matter that minority groups aren't visible on network tv if they are well represented on BET, UPN, etc.
    Definition
    Whites as well as minorities see a distorted picture of their society every time they turn on network tv.
    Term
    Which perspective contends that the mass media stereotype and misrepresent social reality?
    Definition
    The feminist perspective.
    Term
    Which of the following sociological perspectives helps us to understand more about one important aspect of the entire mass media system--the audience?
    Definition
    The interactionist perspective.
    Term
    Sociologist Paul Lazarfeld and his colleagues pioneered the study of what?
    Definition
    Term
    In his study of how the social composition of audience members affected how they interpreted news coverage, sociologist Darnell Hunt found what kind of differences in perception?
    Definition
    Term
    Which of the following is the key to creating a truly global network that reaches directly into workplaces, schools, and homes?
    Definition
    Term
    Studies of media violence have found what?
    Definition
    Less media exposure is related to less observed physical aggression.
    Term
    What percentage of parents used V-chip technology to block programs with sexual or violent content?
    Definition

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