Disrupting gatekeeping practices: Journalists' source selection in times of crisis

Toni G.L.A. Van Der Meer*, Piet Verhoeven, Johannes W.J. Beentjes, Rens Vliegenthart

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

39 Citations (Scopus)


As gatekeepers, journalists have the power to select the sources that get a voice in crisis coverage. The aim of this study is to find out how journalists select sources during a crisis. In a survey, journalists were asked how they assess the following sources during an organizational crisis: news agencies, an organization undergoing a crisis, and the general public. The sample consisted of 214 Dutch experienced journalists who at least once covered a crisis. Using structural equation modeling, sources' likelihood of being included in the news was predicted using five source characteristics: credibility, knowledge, willingness, timeliness, and the relationship with the journalist. Findings indicated that during a crisis, news agencies are most likely to be included in the news, followed by the public, and finally the organization. The significance of the five source characteristics is dependent on source type. For example, to be used in the news, news agencies and organizations should be mainly evaluated as knowledgeable, whereas information from the public should be both credible and timely. In addition, organizations should not be seen as too willing or too eager to communicate. The findings imply that, during a crisis, journalists remain critical gatekeepers; however, they rely mainly on familiar sources.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1107-1124
Number of pages18
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Crisis
  • gatekeeping
  • journalist
  • source
  • source selection


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