Gatecheckers at the visual news stream: A new model for classic gatekeeping theory

Carol B. Schwalbe, Burton Silcock, Elizabeth Candello

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


Over the past 65 years, scholars have reframed the original model of gatekeeping to reflect the changing dynamics of news creation, distribution, and curation. In recent years, communication technologies have opened digital news gates to a proliferation of images captured by professionals and amateurs alike. Anyone with a camera or cell phone can shoot and distribute photographs and videos on the internet. Social media facilitates audience-to-audience sharing through tools such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Vine, and Snapchat. This stream of visuals, along with the ease with which citizen journalists, bloggers, and tweeters can create and publish content, has changed the gatekeeping process. Few scholars, however, have addressed the impact that visuals have on the gatekeeping model, which was developed using text and broadcast stories. To address the changing role of the visual journalist and the audience, the authors conducted two studies. First, qualitative elite interviews with key visual decision-makers in Europe and the US provided questions for further exploration in the second study—an online crosssectional survey of visual journalists who belong to three leading US organizations. The questions in this quantitative survey were also influenced by Shoemaker and Reese’s hierarchy of influences and Bennett’s multigated model. Findings indicate changes in the way visual journalists conceptualize their role and that of the audience. Based on these changes, this article proposes a new model of visual gatekeeping—the twenty-first-century visual news stream where “gatecheckers” select, verify, and curate visuals but no longer solely control their distribution the way traditional gatekeepers did.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)465-483
Number of pages19
JournalJournalism Practice
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 23 2015


  • Curation
  • Gatecheckers
  • Images
  • News selection
  • Social media
  • User-generated content
  • Visual gatekeeping
  • Visual journalism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication


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