Do we still need the gatekeepers?

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Today I had a letter to the editor run in the Boston Globe.  The printed version.  For some reason an article about extending “A reporter’s privilege for Twitterers” inspired me to actually send my thoughts to the Globe’s editors who would scrutinize them before deeming them print worthy.

True, only a small percentage of letters to editors actually get published.  And yes, as long as we show an iota of civility we can see our reactions appear instantly in the comment section that appears immediately below a story in the digital version of virtually every newspaper.

So why bother to go through the gatekeepers?  Good question.  Is it because I wanted to know if someone else thought my points were valid? Because there’s still some little rush that you get when your copy appears in a “real” newspaper? Maybe it was simply the challenge. Or knowing that it’s too easy to shoot off an instant reaction to something we read on a blog or in an online newspaper.

But perhaps it’s also because for some reason, I still have respect for the editors, publishers, even creative directors who have earned the privilege to pass judgment.  Their accomplishments, their taste, and the respect they warrant from peers all imply there’s real merit in their approval.

On the other hand, perhaps this is a really old way of thinking, inspired by the days when, as Bob Garfield says, “the man had all the power,” and we – reader, audience, consumer – were at the whim of their autocratic decision making.

I guess I’m torn.  I want the great gatekeepers to filter out the bad and feed us the good. But of course I only want to subject myself to that scrutiny on my terms.

So what do you think?  Do we want gatekeepers?  Do we give them more credit than they deserve?  Or do we need them as much as always?

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