Date of Award

Spring 5-2014

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Mass Communication and Journalism

Committee Chair

Dr. Christopher Campbell

Committee Chair Department

Mass Communication and Journalism

Committee Member 2

Dr. Fei Xue

Committee Member 2 Department

Mass Communication and Journalism

Committee Member 3

Dr. Gina Chen

Committee Member 3 Department

Mass Communication and Journalism

Committee Member 4

Dr. David Davies

Committee Member 4 Department

Mass Communication and Journalism

Committee Member 5

Dr. Cheryl Jenkins

Committee Member 5 Department

Mass Communication and Journalism

Abstract

This study examined the Twitter use of both traditional gatekeepers, such as NBC, and audience members during the 2012 London Summer Olympics. The exploratory study examined NBC and audience members as gatekeepers with a particular interest in the audience’s role as a gatekeeper through social media use. NBC used Twitter, a social media platform, in ways that supported traditional gatekeeping models. The network aimed to drive audiences back to the traditional television broadcast while providing the audience with the illusion of having an influence on Olympic coverage. Most significantly, this study argues that the audience became a gatekeeper of Olympic coverage. Audience members were able to create content and counter-narratives to meet the interests of other audience members that were not met by NBC. Further, this study introduces a new model to gatekeeping—the audience gatekeeping model in post-broadcasting—to explain the audience’s role as a gatekeeper. This model extends gatekeeping theory into social media scholarship by examining the audience’s ability to create content, disseminate it, and influence the traditional coverage by gatekeepers. By influencing coverage in this way, the audience is incorporated into the gatekeeping model beyond the feedback loop. The final section of this study applies the audience gatekeeping model and social media’s influence on the future of broadcasting, particularly the ability to customize content. In customizing content as a gatekeeper, the audience will be able to decide what it wants to watch, when it wants to watch and how it wants to watch. Traditional gatekeepers, such as NBC, stand to benefit from changes in the gatekeeping model, providing the ability to boost advertising revenue.