Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department

Mass Communications

Major Professor

Randy Miller, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Kenneth Killebrew, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Roxanne Watson, Ph.D.


Web 2.0, social media, user-generated content, iReport, CNN


For nearly sixty years, scholars have studied how information is selected, vetted, and shared by news organizations. The process, known as gatekeeping, is an enduring mass communications theory that describes the process by which news is gathered and filtered to audiences. It has been suggested, however, that in the wake of online communications the traditional function of media gatekeeping is changing.

The infusion of citizen-gathered media into news programming is resulting in what some call a paradigm shift. As mainstream news outlets adopt and encourage public participation, it is important that researchers have a greater understanding of the theoretical implications related to participatory media and gatekeeping. This study will be among the first to examine the adoption of citizen journalism by a major cable news network. It will focus on CNN's citizen journalism online news community called iReport, which allows the public to share and submit "unfiltered" content. Vetted submissions that are deemed newsworthy can then be broadcasted across CNN's networks, and published on

This journalism practice appears to follow the thoughts of Nguyen (2006), who states that, "future journalists will need to be trained to not only become critical gate-keepers but also act as listeners, discussion and forum leaders/mediators in an intimate interaction with their audiences." The goal of the paper is to lay a foundation for understanding how participatory media is utilized by a news network to help researchers possibly develop new models and hypotheses related to gatekeeping theory.