A retrospective of ‘people’ who used the web to become news gate-keepers

People employed by the mainstream media (MSM) are always intrigued (threatened?) when powerful people who used to get their news from the MSM begin to mention that they also get their news from people who create personal web-based media. When big-names in a specific industry start referring to a blog or another form of web-based media created by a person not employed by a media company (note: I didn’t call it “user-generated-content”), the legacy media in that arena become curious — and feature stories follow. Today’s example is this piece in the New York Times about Brian Stelter, the college student who created TV Newswer.


“Perhaps this is what the techno-geeks had in mind when they invented the Internet — a device to squash not only time and space, but also social class and professional hierarchies, putting an unprepossessing Maryland college student with several term papers due in a position to command the attention and grudging respect of some of society’s most famous and powerful personalities. Or maybe it just worked out that way.

Such fascination (fear?) has been around since the mid-90s, but my first recollection of it rising to the level of obsession is when the MSM discovered the Drudge Report. There began an ever-escalating coverage of him until one day, Matt Drudge was invited to speak at the National Press Club and he actually made sense and didn’t bite any heads off live chickens. And so, he was accepted with some begrudging legitimacy as a new form of news gatekeeper with an occasional scoop.

About the same time, in the movie industry, an ubber-geeky guy named Harry Knowles of Ain’t it Cool News was doing the same thing. He’s even been parodied on Saturday Night Live and in an HBO series.

For a segment of college-aged males, Drew Curtis became the keeper of the gate of news of weird pop culture stuff with his forum-like (and not always safe for work) meme-tracking website, Fark.com.

And then, along came blogging and nearly every niche and cranny has the potential for someone who cares about the topic enough to devote the time and energy necessary to stay on top of what’s happening.

Who knows? Maybe you’ll be the next person the New York Times wants to feature. All you need to do is devote 24/7 to knowing more than anyone else about the inside happenings in an niche that a passionate group of people have an obsession.

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