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Article

New gatekeepers in town: How groups in social networking sites influence information flows in Russia’s provinces

Social Media and Society. 2021. Vol. 7. No. 2. P. 1-11.

The study focuses upon ‘city public groups’ (‘gorodskie pabliki’, local newsgroups on social networking sites) – the new entrants in the local media space of the Russian province that have recently become important actors of regional public communication. Such groups combine news posting and citizen discussions, report on local affairs and gossip, and entertain. Some groups are based on user-generated content; others create their own content or act as aggregators. Being non-registered and grassroots initiatives, these media enjoy higher freedom in comparison to official local newsrooms. 

Given the popularity of city public groups among local citizens and local authorities’ interest toward them, owners and moderators of these media are playing an influential role for local mediated discourse. Based on the gatekeeping theory and its extensions for digital space, this paper explores the emerging roles of these new gatekeepers in the local communities. Based upon 28 in-depth interviews collected by the author in Russian towns in 2017 to 2018, the paper also analyses the professional norms and values of the owners and moderators of local city groups that they employ to perform their gatekeeping function.