29 Jun 2019





1.0     INTRODUCTION                                                                    2

2.0     UNDERSTANDING MASS COMMUNICATION                   4
          2.1     The Mass                                                                    5
          2.2     Mass Communication Process                         6
          2.3     Nature of Mass Communication                     6

MH370 NEWS REPORTING                                                  11

5.0     CONCLUSIONS                                                                     14
          REFERENCES                                                                        16

Mass communication is the study of how people and entities relay information through mass media to large segments of the population at the same time. It is usually understood to relate newspaper, magazine, and book publishing, as well as radio, television and film, as these mediums are used for disseminating information, news and advertising. Mass communication differs from the studies of other forms of communication, such as interpersonal communication or organizational communication, in that it focuses on a single source transmitting information to a large group of receivers. The study of mass communication is chiefly concerned with how the content of mass communication persuades or otherwise affects the behavior, attitude, opinion, or emotion of the person or people receiving the information.

The history of communication stretches from prehistoric forms of art and writing through modern communication methods such as the Internet. Mass communication began when humans could transmit messages from a single source to multiple receivers. Mass communication has moved from theories such as the hypodermic needle model (or magic bullet theory) through more modern theories such as computer-mediated communication.

As society and technology have advanced, the newspaper industry has been forced to advance as well. Newspaper web sites are now the norm with over 4,000 newspapers playing host to web sites2 and with each site comes different ways to handle the news. Many web editions simply reprint the day’s news from the newspaper. Others, mostly at larger newspapers, have interactive web sites and staffs to fill up some extra news for online readers. This means that as the news heads to the web, the Gatekeeper heads there as well.

The basic idea of gatekeeping has been cogently stated in Shoemaker’s valuable review of the literature: ‘‘Simply put, gatekeeping is the process by which the billions of messages that are available in the world get cut down and transformed into the hundreds of messages that reach a given person on a given day’’ (1991, 1). Gatekeeping as a theory of communications began with Lewin’s (1951) work on community dynamics and a notion of gatekeeping that was laid out in terms of food consumption—the selection process by which certain foods reach the dinner table, or not. Lewin saw this as a product of ‘‘communications channels’’ and ‘‘gates,’’ metaphors well-suited to a theory of news selection in mass media. Media gatekeeping was then more fully developed in White’s (1950) classic case study of a wire editor at a small town daily newspaper. White catalogued the news stories provided by wire services, and the news stories that ended up in the newspaper, and explored the editor’s reasons for including or excluding certain stories. Relatively simple in design, this work emphasized the potential agenda-setting role of wire services, but, moreover, the effect that a single editor’s ideas about news could have on media content.

Who runs the gate for an online newspaper when breaking news occurs? Does the Gatekeeper hold off on running a story online in order to save it for the newspaper or will the Gatekeeper choose to run the story online first? What factors go into this decision?

This paper will examine the concept of Mass Communication and the role of the Gatekeeper when it comes to running story of breaking news, as an example the downing Malaysian commercial plane MH370.


Mass communication is "the process by which a person, group of people, or large organization creates a message and transmits it through some type of medium to a large, anonymous, heterogeneous audience." This implies that the audience of mass communication are mostly made up of different cultures, behavior and belief systems. Mass communication is regularly associated with media influence or media effects, and media studies. Mass communication is a branch of social science that falls under the larger umbrella of communication studies of communication

The history of communication stretches from prehistoric forms of art and writing through modern communication methods such as the Internet. Mass communication began when humans could transmit messages from a single source to multiple receivers. Mass communication has moved from theories such as the hypodermic needle model (or magic bullet theory) through more modern theories such as computer-mediated communication.

In the United States, the study of mass communication is often associated with the practical applications of journalism (Print media), television and radio broadcasting, film, public relations, or advertising. With the diversification of media options, the study of communication has extended to include social media and new media, which have stronger feedback models than traditional media sources. While the field of mass communication is continually evolving, the following four fields are generally considered the major areas of study within mass communication. They exist in different forms and configurations at different schools or universities, but are (in some form) practiced at most institutions that study mass communication.

For better understanding of the nature of mass communication, we should analyze its
two basic components: the mass and the communication media.

2.1       The Mass
The concept “mass’’ in mass communication is defined as a large, heterogeneous, assorted, anonymous audience.

‘Large’ means we can’t exactly count the number of the members of audience. It is relatively large but it doesn’t mean that the audience includes all people.

‘Heterogeneous’ means the audience of mass media includes all types of people – the rich, the poor, farmers, bureaucrats, politicians and so on.

‘Assorted’ means the audience of mass media is not necessarily limited to a particular geographical sector. They may be scattered everywhere. For example, a newspaper may have a reader in every nook and corner of the world.

‘Anonymous’ means we can’t specifically identify a reader of a newspaper of newspaper with his certain characteristics. Today he may be reader of a particular newspaper. Tomorrow, he may change his media habit. Anybody at any time may be a member of mass media audience.

The channels of communication that produce and distribute news, entertainment content, visuals and other cultural products to a large number of people. Mass media can be classified in to three major groups on the basis of their physical nature.

They are;
  • Print Media like newspaper, magazines and periodicals, books etc.
  • Electronic like radio, cinema, television, video and audio records
  • Digital Media like CD ROMs, DVDs and the Internet facilities.

2.2       Mass Communication Process
How does mass communication work can be well explained in linear model of mass communication? According to this traditional concept, mass communication is a component system made up of senders ( the authors, reporters, producers or agencies) who transmit messages ( the book content, the news reports, texts, visuals, images, sounds or advertisements) through mass media channels ( books, newspapers, films, magazines, radio, television or the Internet) to a large group of receivers ( readers, viewers, citizens or consumers) after the filtering of gatekeepers ( editors, producers or media managers) with some chance for feedback ( letters to editors, phone calls to news reporters, web-site postings or as audience members of talk shows or television discussions). The effect of this process may formation of public opinion, acceptance of a particular cultural value, setting the agenda for the society and the like.

A simple linear model of mass communication situation can be represented with the
diagram given below.

Figure 1: Simple linear model of mass communication

2.3       Nature of Mass Communication
From the above model of mass communication, it is easy to identify the following
features of mass communication.
1)      Mass communication experience is public one. It means that anybody can be a part of this communication process at any time without much effort or permission.
2)      It is a mediated communication act. Nature of the media involved in the process defines the mediation in mass communication. For example, television can transmit a news instantly as it is a fast medium, newspaper takes to bring the same news report to the public because of its limitations. This is how nature of the media defines the mediation process in mass communication.
3)      Mass communication is filtered communication. This filtering processing is called gatekeeping. For example, a news report in a newspaper or on a television channel filtered or controlled at different level by reporter, sub editor, news editor, editor.
4)      It is the most complicated form of communication as it involves complex technology like satellites digital networks, management structure, marketing chain etc.
5)      Mass communication can alter the way the society thinks about events and attitudes.
6)      Mass communication experience is transient. It means that once you used a message (for example, a news report or a film) you may not use it again. The message is meant to be used once and it is gone. Who will read yesterday’s newspaper?
7)      Mass communication is most often remains as one-way communication. As receivers, how many of us write letters to editor (sender)? A very few. But, in interpersonal communication, senders and receivers are in active conversation sending feedback to each other.

Mass communication influence our daily life more than any other cultural institution. They are our main sources of news and entertainment. They define our purchase decision, voting behavior, academic achievement and so on. Because of this all-encompassing impact of mass media, politicians, businessmen and government agencies depend on media to influence people. During election time, we witness politicians spending millions of ringgit for political campaign through mass media. Business firms across the world spend billions of dollars to market their products with the help of mass media advertisements. We are informed of the policies of our governments through newspapers and electronic media. Likewise, we people need mass media to express our needs, complaints and wishes to the authorities. In short, role of mass media in our society is omnipresent.

Mass communication is characterized by the transmission of complex messages to large and diverse audiences, using sophisticated technology of communication.

Mass media refers to the institutions that provide such messages: newspapers, magazines, television, radio, film and multimedia Web sites. The term also is used for the specific institutions of mass media, such as radio networks and television stations, movie companies, music producers, and the Internet.

Here are some unique aspects of mass communication.

  • The source of mass communication message generally is a person or group operating within an organizational setting. Examples of these sources are news reporters, television producers and magazine editors. Likewise, the source generally is a multiple entity, and the resulting message is the work of several persons. For example, producers, writers, actors, directors and video editors all work together to create a television program. Publishers, reporters, editors, copyeditors, typesetters, graphic designers and photographers together produce a magazine article.

Figure 2: Sources of mass communication
  • Mass media messages are sophisticated and complex. Whereas the message in interpersonal communication may be simple words and short sentences, mass media messages are quite elaborate. Examples of mass media message are a news report, a novel, a movie, a television program, a magazine article, a newspaper column, a music video, and a billboard advertisement.

Figure 3: Example of mass media messages sent through mobile devices

  • Channels of mass media, also called mass vehicles, involve one or more aspects of technology. Radio, for example, involves tape machines, microphones, devices that digitize sound waves, transmitters that disseminate them, and receiving units that decode the sound waves and render them back into audio form approximating the original. Sometimes, as in the case of musical recording, the channel of mass communication may even enhance the sound quality of the original.

Figure 4: Channels of mass media

  • Audiences generally are self-selected, people who tune in to a particular television or who read a particular magazine. Mass audiences also are heterogeneous, meaning that they are both large and diverse. They actually are made up of groups of people with dissimilar background, demographics, and socio-political characteristics; they are spread over a vast geographic area. Such audiences are brought together by a single shared interest in the particular message available through the mass medium. Message sources generally have only limited information about their audiences. Radio station managers may know audience demographics such as average ages, incomes, political interests, and so on, but they know little about the individual members of the audience. Indeed, one characteristic of mass media is that the audience members essentially remain anonymous.

Figure 5: Audiences can be vary depends on the channels

  • Feedback is minimal in mass media, and no real give-and-take is practically possible. Message flow typically is one-way, from source to receiver. Traditionally, feedback has been minimal and generally delayed. A newspaper reader could write a letter to the editor; a television viewer might respond to a survey. With the Internet, new possibility is being found to increase feedback, but it remains limited.

Figure 6: Feedback in mass communication

  • Like other forms of mediated communication, noise exists in the mass context. Noise may be semantic, environmental or mechanical.

Figure 7: Noise in mass communication

Sociologists look at the various ways media can reflect and enrich culture. The mass communication present examples of creativity and social culture identified with music, literature, art and so on. These values often are categorized as high culture associated with sophisticated and educated tastes, and low culture identified with the masses. The elitist view supports the high-culture model and suggest that the media owe it to society to model only the best in taste and values, even if the people are unappreciative of the offerings. The populist view associated with the low arts is that the media should give the people what they want.

Canadian communication theorist Marshall McLuhan (1911-1980) popularized the notion that the mass media are re-creating society by turning it into a global village, a new world-wide tribe in which people learn about themselves and others by media-provided observation and pseudo-personal experience. He believed that the printed word engaged the mind and detribalized society, whereas the electronic media stimulate the senses and thus can retribalize society.


For a long time, gatekeeping has provided a dominant paradigm for journalistic news gathering and news publishing in the mass media, both for journalists’ own conceptualization of their work and for academic studies of this mediation process. In media such as print, radio, and TV, with their inherent strictures of available column space, air time, or transmission frequencies, it is necessary to have established mechanisms which police these gates and select events to be reported according to specific criteria of newsworthiness, such as Galtung & Ruge’s news values (1965). Following Lewin and White, McQuail defines gatekeeping as “the process by which selections are made in media work, especially decisions whether or not to admit a particular news story to pass through the “gates” of a news medium into the news channels” (1994: 213).

Lately, however, the effectiveness of gatekeeping has been questioned from a number of perspectives: on the one hand, increasingly ‘the practice of journalism is being contaminated from outside. The “fourth estate” is in danger of being overwhelmed by the “fifth estate”, the growing number of “PR merchants and spin doctors” influencing the news agenda’ (Turner et al. 2000: 29, following Franklin) and undermining the reliability of the gatekeeping process itself. This is also related to the fact that ever since the emergence of 24-hour broadcast news services and even more so since the advent of online news the reporting speed required of news services has also increased steadily, which has made gatekeepers even more likely to rely on prepared material from this ‘fifth estate’ rather than spending time and money on their own, independent research.

Since internet has given us access to almost limitless sources of the same news story by different journalists of separate news organization which then enables us to get various prospects on the same story.  News also holds us individuals with a social glue that provides us with subjects to talk about in real life or on blogs, forums, Facebook and Twitter. If we consider the lost Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 as an example, which became a sensational news story and almost everybody on the globe knows about this incident, as a result internet has produced a wide range of speculation on the fate of MH370 and still continuing because the readers get attached to sensational stories and will keep following it until they reach an outcome. As a result, newspapers and other news forms have created numerous predictive stories to get our attention on their articles on the web and other news media channels. Which is again pointed out by Carey in his transmission model of communication, where the focus stays with such questions as, how are people affected, what are their attitudes towards the particular news and finally is it an adequate representation of reality.

The day after reports confirmed that the plane had disappeared, CNN ran broadcasts that speculated the different alternative endings to this story. With no evidence or facts to back up their accusations, CNN ran newscast after newscast stating how the wing could have flown off or that the pilots could be terrorists among other radical suggestions. The problem is that these random, radical accusations put ideas into the minds of those watching at home. The search for the plane and the passengers became a dramatic movie. The most obnoxious and radical experts were placed on FOX News broadcasts to fill time slots and keep the public engaged with the story. Three weeks later, the story is still a headline despite no new evidence. The public is so intrigued with this story that when search efforts find anything on their radar it becomes breaking news – even when what they have found turns out to be a dead jellyfish or a piece of garbage.

Figure 8: Example of fake news circulating online that create media frenzy

Figure 9: Even well-known media outlet are not exempted from the role of gatekeeping
Figure 10: Another example of fake news circulating on social media regarding MH370

Figure 11: Gatekeeper play a major role in filtering news

The concept of gatekeeping was introduced by Lewin in 1947 who defined news as flowing in a channel controlled by several gatekeepers (Lee, 2012). It described how news selection was made by editors and journalists from a variety of sources. However, the traditional gatekeeping model is not being followed any longer in the online environment. Readers can now bypass the traditional gatekeepers who were influential as they held the power of regulate news and seek information that interests them while overlooking the transitional processors of news (Paterson, 2005). As a result, the meaning of gatekeeping “has shifted from the decision about what should be produced to control of what materials get to consumers and of what material they become aware” (Hargittai, 2004). Besides, online communication can make matters striking to news readers, which are typically gathered or nominated by traditional gatekeepers and the users.

The internet poses a challenge for journalists as much as anybody else because the profound changes that are being developed constantly on gathering, production and distribution of information. Journalists have to be on high alert to cope up with these changes (Agostini, 2012). On one side, we have the devotees of digital age speaking the praises of online information and all ready to completely move forward from the newspapers and journalists alike. On the other, we have the traditional sceptics who believes no matter what changes come through the advancement of technology, professional journalists and organizations will always be needed for fact checking of the news (Agostini, 2012). Innovation and advancement of internet has profoundly affected the profession of journalism but that doesn’t mean it has put an end to this profession because the key transformation were focused on the modes of production and its tools. For example; radio never replaced the need of newspaper and television did not force radio out of the context but it is true when a newer mode of distribution arrives in the profession of mews media the old one suffers as it loses audience. Changes are growing on this dispute as well because all the different news media brings some advantage over the other, securing their own segment of audience which means they have all learned to live with each other fulfilling the diverse expectations of their audience (Pavlik, 2010).

Finally, as it is already happening, internet and web will keep transforming the landscape of news media and journalism on the fact of gathering and reporting news. This change in approach will only make the fourth estate even stronger as eyewitnesses are becoming reporters via the social networks, but the world is still going to need journalists to validate facts. Internet has set the news media free, as there is no story big enough that would not fit in the columns of the web and there is no video long enough that it will run out of time.

Mass media is a communication instrument that enables information and experiences to be recorded and transferred to a large audience and in heterogeneous form. Mass Communication makes it possible to bridge gap in time and distance besides facilitating information access.

The relationship between mass media and the audience is very close. The process of message transmission through mass communication uses a mass media mediator. In the process of channeling information, various actors are involved in determining the messages is delivered to the audience.

The other purpose of this assignment is to determine the Gatekeeper’s role in breaking news. The subjects made it very clear that gatekeeper played a large role in the Gatekeeping process. Although there were very few official procedures that were used, all of the sites had an unofficial process that gave the Gatekeeper guidelines which are very necessary. News judgment also plays a key role in the process, according to the subjects.

The Gatekeeper’s job now entails deciding which news will be presented to the audience and in which format. He must decide what breaking news goes onto the audience. The Gatekeeper must organize the constant flow and put it in a recognizable format so the reader doesn’t become overwhelmed with information. And this makes the job of a Gatekeeper even more important.


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