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Friday, March 15 2002

Gateways and gatekeepers

On network TV it's all about being gateways. The mass media aren't only gateways for one another ("Friends" being the Thursday night gateway for the new sitcom NBC wants to launch in a big way, for one example; the fact that the highest rated late-night show—Jay Leno's Tonight Show at this time—priming the pump for the local news preceding it at 11 p.m. on its network's affiliates)...even more importantly they fancy themselves the public's gateways to the culture. They—we, to whatever miniscule extent "we" play in this sandbox—all want to influence the way you think and what you think about.

In the world's newsrooms, where the reports come in via wires and wireless, and mostly by the Internet these days, and via the paid staffs of the respective media, the editors are referred to as the gatekeepers. Journalism schools use that as technical jargon, referring to the fact that in any given day there are many times more "stories" available than even the largest newspapers—the London, New York and Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Tribune and San Jose Mercury—can give space to. The gatekeeper is the one assigned the power to choose which of the hundreds of stories filed every day get published. "Newsworthy" is defined by many strange criteria.

When I was in J-school, and probably still today, it was common knowledge that the first edition of the next morning's New York Times front page was described in detail in a nightly wire release sent to the nation's hundreds of smaller, less influential, papers, and more of them copied that source to decide on the content of their own front pages every morning than any other single source. The NYT has long been the bastian of Democratic Party liberalism—and most of the other major media follow its example, including all the broadcast network news departments (except for possibly the relatively new basic-cable Fox News Channel), though most of the smaller newspapers in the nation typically endorse Republican presidential candidates than the Democrats.

The playing field has been rearranged a bit now, however, with the coming to prominence of the Internet and what is called "the new media." News phenomena like the Drudge Report, have emerged, and it's clear that some important more traditional media take cues from what Drudge considers important. Though he writes only a few articles per week himself, he's a major conduit of access to other world media through the links on his portal page, which receives between three and four million hits (or visits) by news consumers every day. His niche has become so significant through entirely traditional media means that I envy today's journalism grad students who have the opportunity to write term papers and theses about it.

See you on Tuesday....

—Webmaster Jon Kennedy

Words to live by

OK, so what's the speed of dark?

How do you tell when you're out of invisible ink?

If everything seems to be going well, you have obviously overlooked something.

Depression is merely anger without enthusiasm.

When everything is coming your way, you're in the wrong lane.

—Steven Wright
Sent by Trudy Myers

Whom we declare

Because there is no other God, nor ever was, nor will be, than God the Father unbegotten, without beginning, from whom is all beginning, the Lord of the universe, as we have been taught; and His son Jesus Christ, whom we declare to have always been with the Father, spiritually and ineffably begotten by the Father before the beginning of the world, before all beginning; and by Him are made all things visible and invisible. He was made man, and, having defeated death, was received into heaven by the Father; and He has given Him all power over all names in heaven, on earth, and under the earth, and every tongue shall confess to Him that Jesus Christ is Lord and God, in whom we believe, and whose advent we expect soon to be, judge of the living and of the dead, who will render to every man according to his deeds; and He has poured forth upon us abundantly the Holy Spirit, the gift and pledge of immortality, who makes those who believe and obey sons of God and joint heirs with Christ; and Him do we confess and adore, one God in the Trinity of the Holy Name.

—St. Patrick, c. 385-461, Confession
(Welsh, apostle to Ireland, reprised)

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