A review of “Gatewatching: Collaborative Online News Production” (2005) written by Axel Bruns
“Gatewatching” is a fairly expanded study on collaborative publishing of online news. Bruns describes the practice of journalistic gatekeeping which refers to a regime of control over what content is allowed to emerge from production processes in the media. The alternative for the traditional gatekeeping is provided by gatewatching, which is defined as “the observation of the output gates of news publications and other sources, in order to identify important material as it becomes available.” Gatewatching enables many users to participate in the publishing of online news.
In recent years there has been an emergence of a new generation of news websites where the balance shifts from publishing newsworthy information to a publicizing of whatever relevant content is availalable anywhere on the web, and the evaluation of such content. This process is being illustrated by a number of case studies like the technology news site Slashdot, the political Indymedia network, the multi-sourced news site Google News. Bruns also describes the upcoming of personal news commentaries on weblogs and blogs that practice gatewatching by keeping track of publications elsewhere, and linking to what they think is important. He states that the participatory journalism could lead to a multifaceted, multiperspectival coverage of news events which is more balanced and uncensored.
What’s nice about the book is that Bruns’s tone of voice seems fairly objective, he doesn’t claim any truths and doesn’t force his opinion upon the reader. He just reports a coherent description of the current situation concerning online news publication. On the other hand, the 330 page book is a bit ‘dry’ and thus not especially ‘fun’ to read. What makes the book a bit more readible are the interview quotes from conversations with key figures of different news websites that Bruns gives in the case studies. Another plus is the way in which Bruns analizes the resemblances and differences of collaborative online news projects, using criteria (like the extent to which users are able to participate at the different stages of gatekeeping) to describe in which ways a particular website is ‘open’ or ‘closed’. In short, I think “Gatewatching” is a very informative book and describes in a very clear and coherent way the recent developments that are of great importance in the world of online news publishing.
The author of “Gatewatching”, Axel Bruns, completed his PhD in the area of media and cultural studies at the University of Queensland University of Technology (Brisbane, Australia), where he is now a teacher. He is also General Editor of the website M/C – Media and culture, which claims to be “a place of public intellectualism, analysing and critiquing the meeting of media and culture”.