ARTICLE: Silicon Valley as an institutional force disrupting journalism

Picture: Silicon Valley from above by Patrick Nouhallier, license CC BY-SA 2.0

Digital platforms emerging from Silicon Valley have gained a growing gatekeeping power in journalism. Frank Michael Russell of California State University did a qualitative analysis of 21 interviews from the interview series Riptide, “an oral history of the epic collision between journalism and digital technology from 1980 to the present”.

The interviews with tech company executives, managers and venture capitalists were conducted in 2013 and 2014. The research sought to find out how journalism and Silicon Valley actors discursively constructed Silicon Valley’s role.

Interviews suggest that “Silicon Valley platforms and their predecessors had at least as much control as journalism over their emergence as intermediary gatekeepers”. The role as a gatekeeper developed partly based on the concerns over journalism, but mainly on institutional-level considerations of Silicon Valley.

These considerations include beliefs that societal problems can be solved with technological solutions, that entrepreneurs are better at disruptive innovation than industry incumbents, and that information should be freely accessible. Journalistic values might be incompatible with the values of Silicon Valley, or with the intended purpose of the internet, the author writes.

Silicon Valley actors expressed concern for providing citizens information they need to participate in democracy. However, their values do not necessarily hold that journalism is always necessary to achieve that goal.

“Acknowledging Silicon Valley as an institutional force is essential for charting a viable path for the future of news and news gatekeeping”, Russell concludes.

The article “The New Gatekeepers” was published in Journalism Studies and is available online (free abstract). Riptide is a project of the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy. Find the Riptide interviews here.

Picture: Silicon Valley from above by Patrick Nouhallier, license CC BY-SA 2.0

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