Geert Goiris photographer working in Belgium.
In the traditional theory of political communication political influence through the media is largely determined by the interaction between the political elites (in their plurality) and professional journalists.
Media act as gatekeepers of the information flows that shape public opinion. Elihu Katz (1997) emphasized the transformation of the media environment through the fragmentation of the audience, and the increasing control that new communication technologies give to the consumers of the media. The growing role of on-line, multimodal social networking accelerates this transformation.
According to Williams and Delli Carpini (2004), the new media environment disrupts the traditional “single axis system” of political influence and creates a fluid “multiaxity” of power in three ways:
(1) The expansion of politically relevant media and the blurring of news and entertainment has led to a struggle within the media itself for the role of authoritative gatekeeper of scandals.
(2) The expansion of media outlets and the move to a 24-hour news cycle have created new opportunities for non-mainstream political actors to influence the setting and framing of the political agenda (as in the case of Matt Drudge bypassing the mainstream media via his Drudge Report on-line, to start the Monica Lewinsky scandal that CBS and other media suppressed for about two weeks). Twenty-four hour cable news outlets now not only gather news as fast as possible but also broadcast it rapidly as well, effectively eliminating the role of editors in the news production process.
And (3) this changed media environment has created new opportunities and pitfalls for the public to enter and interpret the political world. According to Williams and Delli Carpini, the rise of cell phones, videogames, ipods, and other new technologies has broken down the binary between media and the rest of everyday life on which most of political communication used to rest.