Tuesday, August 22, 2017


It did not get dark here.  Someone by the pool had a box gizmo. Put that on your head,  look at the sun and you could see the moon blocking portions.  But the sky remained every bit as bright as it had been.

It was an interesting phenomenon watching the news from noon until three yesterday.  It was all eclipse, all the time.  And it made me think about the importance of gatekeeping as it sets our agenda.  If yesterday had not been an eclipse day, CNN would have had different stories on the air.  Probably experts predicting what the President was going to say about Afghanistan, or the wisdom of Ryan's town hall meeting, or the latest Trump faux pas. Regardless of the specific segments, there would be some stories that would pass for news that would be consumed by news consuming viewers.

So the news that was yesterday, was the news about the eclipse, and that fueled the discourse of the day.  Today, there will be other stories, maybe there will be reports on how the eclipse affected communities, local economies, individuals who trekked from here or there to get to a good place for the sighting.  But slowly the story of the eclipse will end and the void will be filled with something else.

The power of gatekeepers in determining that something else is enormous.  On Sunday morning I woke up chuckling about the president's comments urging the country to "heel."  We spoke about that much of the morning. Yesterday it was the eclipse. Today it will likely be pundits opining about the Afghanistan speech or the timing of the Afghanistan speech or the fluctuations on the stock market.

 Will Rogers is credited with saying, "All I know is what I read in the newspapers.".  Well now, all we know is what we see on CNN, read in whatever is left of newspapers, view on web sites, hear on NPR, or spot on the web when individuals re/post comments on the internet.  Of these, the only one with nontraditional gatekeepers is the internet.  The gatekeepers for the internet are essentially us.  I can post something, but unless someone reposts and until it goes viral or at least something close to viral, it does not get to the masses.

Point is that the media can and does eclipse what would be news and present as news what might not be newsworthy. And we, in part, are the media.  The media is not just some external ghoul who messes with our consciousness.  We participate in what is eclipsed, what is presented as news and what affects our national and international conversations. And that reality brings to professional gatekeepers and all of us important responsibilities.

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