Until recently, “the news” has meant two different things events that are newsworthy, and events covered by the press. In that environment what identified something as news was professional judgment. The position of the news outlets (the very phrase attests to the scarcity of institutions that were able to publish information) was like that of the apocryphal umpire who says, “Some pitches are balls and some are strikes, but they ain’t nothin’ till I call ’em.” There has always been grumbling about this system, on the grounds that some of the things the press was covering were not newsworthy (politicians at ribbon cuttings) and that newsworthy stories weren’t being covered or covered enough (insert your pet issue here). Despite the grumbling, however, the basic link between newsworthiness and publication held, because there did not seem to be an alternative. What the Lott story showed us was that the link is now broken. From now on news can break into public consciousness without the traditional press weighing in. Indeed, the news media can end up covering the story because something has broken into public consciousness via other means.
Clay Shirky, Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations (New York & London: Penguin Books, 2008), 64-65.