It appears there are still those in mainstream media and publishing worrying over the the dilution of "standards" in the era of the internet and of self-publishing. Alison Walsh at the Irish Independent is concerned that
In the 'anyone can do it' age, it seems that all you have to do is join a creative writing group, or upload a short story on to one of many websites, or chat to your friends on author forums and hey, presto. But while writing courses can encourage a certain standard, can make you aware of point of view and plot development, can equip you with the skills to compose something that resembles a novel, they can't make you a writer. They can't give you that extra something that lifts a work out of being just a humdrum collection of words into something special, that magic that only a very few possess. . . .
One might have thought that by now self-styled "gatekeepers" would have given up on the idea that they must retain the status they believe they possessed in the old print-only dispensation, but Ms. Walsh is sure that
what's missing from the whole 'anyone can write' idea is a yardstick of quality. The imprimatur of an experienced, skilled individual saying, 'This is good enough to be published', and lifting the standard of literature in the process.
Pretty obviously Alison Walsh is staking a claim to be such an "experienced, skilled individual," although frankly I can find no information about her that would assure me she has the qualifications or ability to determine "the standard of literature" that should be applied to the work of serious writers. Simply because someone has been designated an "editor" by a publishing company whose first priority is always profits does not at all mean that such a person knows the first thing about "literature" or what gives "quality" to writing.
Walsh herself identifies the main reason why "gatekeeping" of the sort she has in mind is a misguided enterprise when she writes that "creative talent can't be judged objectively and what one editor will rave about, another will dispatch to the wastepaper basket." Editorial gatekeeping is at best a hopelessly subjective and uncertain enterprise that encourages the editor (who has often arbitrarily been granted power over a writer's fate) to project his/her fallible judgment as the "standard of literature." At worst it jettisons such a standard altogether in favor of commercial potential or the belief that the target audience's expectations must be met.
If anyone could be said to plausibly have a gatekeeping role it would be the literary critic (although the critic who actually calls him/herself a gatekeeper deserves whatever mockery might ensue). Indeed, what the literary world needs now is not more editors and publishers pretending to be upholding "the standard of quality" but more critics willing to expend the effort to study literature and literary history (which certainly does not require any sort of academic degree) so that judgment is grounded in some degree of knowledge, to consider works of literature comparatively, and to pay the kind of attention required to apprehend and describe what a seriously intended literary work seems to be attempting. Only the presence of this sort of criticism can mitigate against the sort of chaos that people like Alison Walsh think will accompany the "democritazation" of literature. I, for one, don't see why such a critical presence should be an unattainable goal, thus making the era of "anyone can do it" just as likely as any other to produce "quality" works of literature.