When designing any communication platform, it is crucial to acknowledge the role that the audiences play in the process of disseminating digital news. They may be passive or active participants. Singer’s (2014) article titled ‘User-generated visibility: secondary gate-keeping in a shared media space’ responds to these two crucial questions in the field of media studies, specifically in an environment of internet and technological mediations that have led to new roles of the audiences in media platforms. Identifying the key aspects of research requires the 5W model that has been historically deployed in media research. The 5Ws (what, why, who, where, and when) define the fundamental aspects of any good news. Media studies are done in a cultural, political, or in a social context. This situation underlines the significance of “how” in media research approaches.
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Singer (2014) explores the implications for transitioning to an environment in which the audiences become secondary gatekeepers of any digital information that is published in newspaper websites. The reason (why) the researcher conducted the study is that in an environment of technological changes, news users or audiences have a probability of mediating the information consumption process, including determining how such updates are consumed once they are published.
To this extent, Singer’s (2014) article emphasizes the “assessment of the contributions by other users, communication of the perceived value or quality of user and journalist-produced content, and the selective re-dissemination of that content” (p.56). This focus presupposes a new dimension in media studies and research in which editorial decisions that lead to the incorporation of an item into the final product (news) are accompanied by an increment or decrement of the visibility levels of the item by various secondary audiences on digital publication of the news. This claim reveals the ‘why’ aspect of the 5W model in media studies.
The reason why the research is conducted is determined by who the researchers are, where they live, and/or when they are conducting research. Jane Singer works in the University of Lowa, the USA in the School of Journalism. Hence, the author has an interest in identifying changes in journalist paradigms to meet new anticipations of effective dissemination of news. The changes influence the development of new schools of thought in the profession of journalism. The new ways include not only historical perspectives, but also the current and the expected future dynamics.
Jane Singer researches in a time when technological changes such as Web 2.0 applications are playing different roles in shaping media studies. Therefore, it is not surprising that the research focuses on the mediation of technologies such as social media whose operations are reconciled by Web 2.0 technology. The study is significant since it reveals users’ ability to determine the levels of circulation of digitally published news items, unlike historical perspectives, where the ability to circulate news publication depended solely on the organizations affiliated with specific publication capabilities. Singer’s (2014) research unveils such implications. The research is conducted in the US context with newspaper websites acting as the medium of choice and the source of data. As revealed in the paper, various organizations are affiliated with Singer’s research.
In line with Module 1, Singer’s (2014) research offers an insight into how the audience interacts with the media. Digital media dissemination of news has been discussed in various audience-related studies (Deuze, 2008). Digital journalism has also been discussed in journalist studies in which the user gains control of the news. Subsequently, the users are incorporated into the discussion of journalist audiences. Due to the mediation of new media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube among others, mass-media thinking approach is challenged.
Singer’s (2014) research offers an in-depth discussion of the role of new media in increasing the visibility of stories or news items that were originally published in newspaper websites. Hence, newspaper organizations that publish items over the web in the US form an important affiliate to the research. Additionally, social media organizations such as Facebook and Twitter can identify their roles in determining how newspaper organizations operate. Singer’s research plays a central role in addressing the changes that technology has plays in shaping the way people communicate. Technology affects how modern journalists manage and selectively determine what the audiences view or read, including how to view or read any news update. To this extent, the article confirms that Web 2.0 marked a revolution of the role of media content producers and audiences in the selection of materials that reach the audience, how to interpret the content, and/or share it with other audiences.
Web 2.0 marked a transition of e-cultures that interact over the internet. Web 2.0 has led to a shift from an internet environment where information was specifically published targeting passive audience. Current, internet information is published bearing in mind dynamic the networked audience to allow active user participation (Baresch, Harp, & Knight, 2011). In traditional media research, the focus was mainly on how content developers established gates for information flow from the content creator to the audience. Through such gates, the only information that was necessary to reach a passive audience would be allowed to flow in one direction.
With the new technological developments such as Web 2.0 and social media networking, which allow the audience to share and tag digitally published content, the content creator, who is also the primary gate controller, loses control over it upon publication. Through blogging, tagging, or even sharing, the audience decides on who should access the content and/or who to encourage viewing it. Driven by this concern, Singer (2014) hypothesizes the existence of a two-gate model (primary and secondary gates) that is attracting research in new media and audiences.
The research explores various implications for transitioning into the environment where users play the role of secondary gatekeeping of published digital content. One of the article’s main points of argument is that the expanded role of users is mediated and supported by the internet with the help of digital news editors (Singer, 2014). This revelation is important since the article establishes the role played by technology and users in disseminating quality news to the secondary audience.
Research by Singer (2014) is designed as a qualitative study that incorporates aspects of quantitative research. Therefore, it deploys the mixed-method approach. Mixed methods studies are more explicit since they involve the integration of qualitative and quantitative information, techniques, methodologies, and/or models into a research study. Singer’s research passes the above criterion of a mixed-method study. First, she has review literature (qualitative) materials to find out what other writers have commented on the same subject. Besides, she also gathered data from a sample of 675 newspapers. This data was analyzed quantitatively.
Hence, as revealed in Module 2, a critique of the methodology should respond to the question of whether the methodology is appropriate to media research and/or whether it meets the threshold of an excellent qualitative and quantitative research. Various scholars such as Cohen and Crabtree (2008) prescribe certain characteristics that qualitative and quantitative researches must meet for the results and recommendations to arrive at an effective resolution of the stated problem. For this reason, the methodology deployed in the research needs to have some specific characteristics, which include credibility (Barbour, 2003), reliability, the use of rigorous methods, legitimacy, and verification (Cohen & Crabtree, 2008).
Based on the above issues, Singer’s (2014) research methods are appropriate for the type of research. She establishes and discusses her criteria of sample selection with care to ensure that the samples incorporated into research can lead to the collection of the appropriate data that can help to answer her research questions sufficiently while at the same time achieving her research objectives. Her approach to data collection and the plan for its analysis guarantee credibility. She has clearly stated the sources of data. To guarantee verifiability, she provides links to the organizations where the data may be retrieved. Therefore, by deploying her data coding approaches, the principles of reliability are promoted since it may be possible to reproduce the same finding if the websites identified do not update to change.
Qualitative and quantitative researches need to be valid (Rolfe, 2006). They can be internal and external. External validity implies the degree of truth of various claims raised in the research and the existing variables. On the other hand, external validity implies the degree to which one can oversimplify the study results (Cohen & Crabtree, 2008). To promote the validity of research conducted in specific fields, criteria exist for analyzing the efficiency of methodology deployed. Singer’s (2014) research method applies to communication and media research.
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As discussed in Module 3 and 4, research in digital media and its relationships with audience demands the deployment of interdisciplinary approaches that involve different research methods. In this field of study, Cunningham and Turner (2010) reveal how qualitative research applies best when investigating issues that relate to new media. This approach specifically applies to new media. Flew (2008) offers the response, “any approach to new media that simply catalogues [quantifies] the technologies themselves, and fails to ask broader questions about the contexts of their use and their broader social and cultural impacts, ignores the central question of the need to look at new media in the first place” (p. 4).
Traditional media researches mainly deployed quantitative approaches. However, much similar to these traditional approaches, research into new or digital media may deploy quantitative approaches. Shen, Brdiczka, and Ruan (2013) justify such approaches by claiming that digital and social media platforms permit easiness in accessing quantifiable data. They make it easy to collect quantitative data not only in time but also in a cost-effective manner. For example, people who visit blogs, social media, and various other websites leave behind quantitative data such as the number of links visited and time spent on each website.
Although the methodology adopted by Singer is appropriate for her type of research, one limitation is worth noting. The research lacks rigorous methods. Such methods are appropriate in establishing the correlation between various variables that Singer (2014) uses. For instance, with the evolution of newspaper online business, it is significant to establish how audiences influence the sharing of content. Various people and organizations are bound to benefit from the research findings.
Journalists and publication organizations are the major beneficiaries of Singer’s work. Indeed, the findings are central for journalists who cling on the traditional news reporting culture that was based on old conceptualizations of the role played by commentators in the society as revealed in Module 1. Journalists now find their role of gatekeeping shared with an active audience.
Users select the news for their consumption. They also determine what the audiences consume, including the consumption patterns of undifferentiated people who are active in the online platforms. This role depicts a shift in the visibility of user-generated news. In this context, Singer (2014) suggests that journalists who seek to preserve their neighbourhood “saw an encroachment into their territories for gatekeeping as an immense threat” (Singer, 2014, p. 68). Based on the article’s findings, this paradigm is inappropriate. More gatekeepers who are associated with digital and social media present mutual benefits.
Through digital media, audiences acquire personalized directions on information that is likely to benefit them most. Therefore, although there may be concerns related to the fragmentation of the audience, journalists have the benefit of acquiring more audiences who are highly interested in their materials. Through the traditional paradigm of mass media, this goal may involve doing extra work to draw people to the attention of the materials produced by journalists. Digital and social media platforms increase the number of audiences without journalists having to do some extra work.
The audience guides other people to the location of the materials produced by the journalists. Hence, media organizations can generate news updates by developing a new paradigm for interpreting the role of active secondary gatekeepers in increasing traffic for their content. Despite this benefit, the article also sets a starting point on the mechanisms they can deploy to deal with challenges of comments from anonymous people. Having people to comment on Facebook is an important milestone for dealing with the challenge. The research may be of little benefit to the audiences since it offers no mechanisms through which they can gain from its findings.
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