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Staffers at The Appeal announced they had formed a union. Five minutes later, management announced layoffs.
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June 15, 2010, noon

What does the shift from editor-as-gatekeeper to a collective pursuit mean for the news industry?

[Our sister publication Nieman Reports is out with its latest issue, and its focus is the new digital landscape of journalism. There are lots of interesting articles, and we’ll be highlighting a few here over the next few days. Here, our friend Ken Doctor writes about how the gatekeeping function of editors changes in a digital world. —Josh]

In the early 1990’s, I became managing editor of Saint Paul, Minnesota’s Pioneer Press, a proud Knight Ridder newspaper locked in mortal daily combat with Minneapolis’s Star Tribune, just across the river. I recall well the day when I had to make my first tough calls — the news we were going to place prominently on Page One and the news we weren’t. I felt an odd mix of exhilaration and fear.

I was the final arbiter of what would greet several hundred thousand people who picked up the paper each morning. What if I chose wrong? So I focused on choosing right, and with that confidence grew the assumed power and nonchalant arrogance of the gatekeeper. That’s what top editors were, and still are, though their power is diminishing each day by weakening print circulation and an odd feeling of being on the losing side in history’s march into digital journalism.

In this hybrid era of straddling print and digital publishing, the role of the gatekeeper has markedly morphed. It’s shifted from “us” to “them,” but “them” includes a lowercase version of “us,” too. Gatekeeping is now a collective pursuit; we’ve become our own and each other’s editors. I picked this idea to be the lead trend in my book Newsonomics: Twelve New Trends That Will Shape the News You Get, published earlier this year by St. Martin’s Press. I called the chapter “In the Age of Darwinian Content, You Are Your Own Editor,” and since I named it I’ve never regretted giving it top billing.

Keep reading at Nieman Reports »

POSTED     June 15, 2010, noon
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