ISSN: 1550-7521

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Research Article Open Access

How Online Gatekeepers Guard Our View-News Portals' Inclusion and Ranking of Media and Events

Abstract

This study examines two news portals, Google News and Yahoo News, using a theoretical framework that incorporates the theory of network gatekeeping (Barzilai-Nahon, 2007) and the notion of search engine bias. The study tests three hypotheses about the relationship between dominance of the news media, proximity of news events to the U.S. interests, and position of the news links on portals’ front pages and result pages. The study analyzed 34,277 news items from 1,200 pages retrieved in 60 days in 2006 and 2008. The descriptive data show four major trends: 1) Google News and Yahoo News differed significantly in media inclusion on the front pages, with Yahoo relying on a very limited number of media outlets; 2) the two portals also differed significantly in media inclusion on result pages except for ‘Iraq bombing’ pages in 2008: Yahoo relied more on agencies and U.S media outlets while Google relied more on non-major media from the U.S. and other countries; 3) both news portals increased the proportion of major media and decreased that of non-major media between 2006 and 2008; and 4) for both news portals, the distribution of media outlets was heavily skewed, with very few media outlets used hundreds of times during the studies period while the majority used only a few times. The hypothesis tests, using combined data of two portals of two years and separate data of each portal of each year, show none of the three hypotheses are fully supported. These findings advance the understanding of the traditional gatekeeping notion in the Internet context. They also challenge the network gatekeeping theory regarding the role of the gated relative to the gatekeeper, and caution against any sweeping generalization about news portals as a single entity.

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