Setting The Agenda The Mass Media And Public Opinion – Agenda-setting theory states that it is the mass media that sets the agenda for public discourse. It does this not so much by telling people what to think, but rather what to think.
This means that the more attention the media pay to certain events, the more likely the public is to consider the issue important.
- 1 Setting The Agenda The Mass Media And Public Opinion
- 2 The Mass Media As Political Actors
- 3 Human Rights Move Up On Africa’s Agenda
- 4 Pdf) The Agenda Setting Function Of Mass Media
- 5 Inclusive Language Principles That Will Make You A More Successful Recruiter
Setting The Agenda The Mass Media And Public Opinion
We often come across posts on social media that start with “Why isn’t anyone talking about…”. Then they go on to report on an issue that has flown under the radar of the news media.
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Often presented in a style of ramblings, provocative revelations, such posts, and their authors are critical of the mainstream media, accusing it of bias when covering certain events, geographies, ethnicities and other socio-political categories .
In the 1970s and 80s, when newspapers and television stations had a lot of control over what was considered the important topics of the day. Getting news on TV or in newspapers was a way to give validity and importance to an issue.
For us today, who get much of our news from decentralized platforms like Twitter, Facebook or YouTube, that undermines the media’s ability to set the agenda.
Its application in the 21st century has allowed us to understand the biases inherent in seemingly neutral and decentralized social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook and how they influence our lives.
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First proposed in 1972 by Maxwell McCombs and Donald Shaw, professors at the University of North Carolina, agenda-setting theory has two basic assumptions:
For example, if the media reports more often on Justin Trudeau compared to other Canadian or world leaders, this is objective salience or first-level agenda setting.
When the media informs us that Justin Trudeau is a charming, 6-foot-2, brown-haired man who loves sharp-cut suits and is a social progressive (rather than focusing on allegations of corruption and judicial interference), it is the assignment (or second level). agenda setting) where we are told how to think about it.
In August-September 2021, the most covered news around the world is the “modest” withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan. The news was reported in breathless commentary with the urgency of impending disaster. However, it was quite clear that for most people in most countries of the world, the return of undemocratic governance in Afghanistan has no meaning for their daily lives.
The Mass Media As Political Actors
Even for the American people, there were concurrent pressing issues in their own lives, such as the health care crisis, hurricane damage, and flooding in New York City, that took a backseat to the Taliban’s frantic attention.
The foreshadowing of a specific problem (Afghanistan) and the attribution of specific characteristics to it (a return to a regressive order) therefore set the agenda of the first and second levels respectively in this case.
A similar example is the 2003 Iraq War, where widespread media coverage of the White House’s position that dictator Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction was used to build public opinion in favor of a US invasion of Iraq. and her allies.
It turned out that Saddam Hussein did not have WMDs, nor did he pose a significant threat to related interests. A British commission of inquiry called the Chilcot report declared that the war was unnecessary, with no legal basis to support it.
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Although agenda-setting theory was originally conceptualized for mainstream media such as television and newspapers, in the 21st century, social media platforms and video sharing applications have begun to take over the role of traditional news media.
Media platforms such as Facebook have been repeatedly accused of filtering news posts in favor of certain ideologies and thereby shaping public opinion.
Sociological research has supported the view that portals such as Facebook fulfill the conditions of agenda-setting theory in that they are selective in what they allow their audiences to see.
Audiences engaging with political content on Facebook show a higher level of “issue importance,” or consider the particular issue prominently displayed on Facebook to be more important than others (Feezell, 2017).
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This causes people to retreat into their biased political bubbles, where the agenda in their news feeds is completely different from the agenda of people with different political views.
According to the World Bank, almost half of the world’s population lives on less than $5.50 a day. This makes professional sports a luxury beyond the reach of most people (Almost Half of the World’s Population, 2018).
In addition, about 77% of the human race lives in Asia and Africa – regions where participation and interest in international sporting events is not seen much.
However, the annual sporting events are a global spectacle dominated by the wealthy nations of Europe and North America (China, as a recent arrival, being the only exception).
Pdf) The Agenda Setting Function Of Mass Media
Despite this fact, the media coverage of global sporting spectacles far exceeds the influence they have on most people’s lives. This is the first level agenda setting.
When the media continues to report on the attributes of certain nations as “sporting powers” (such as Australia, the United States or Russia), it sets the second-level agenda.
For example, Tesla and Elon Musk are constantly in the media spotlight. This is the first level of agenda setting or object prominence.
A large number of media stories about Elon Musk portray him as a visionary entrepreneur, innovator and self-made billionaire, focusing on certain characteristics of his personality and, in addition, on the characteristics of the businesses he owns, such as Tesla and SpaceX . . This is the second level agenda setting or attribute importance.
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We can think of some such examples like Richard Branson and Virgin Atlantic, Bill Gates, Microsoft and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation etc.
Although agenda-setting theory is traditionally attributed to McCombs and Shaw, its first articulation can be traced to Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Walter Lippmann in the 1920s.
Often called the father of modern journalism, Lippmann (1922) described how the mass media became a propaganda tool in the hands of the ruling elite.
Lippmann coined the phrase “consent generation” to describe how public opinion is shaped by selective media reports.
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Overall, Lippmann believed that the mass media would cause the death of democracy as the policy making process became more and more complex and thus only an elite group of technocrats whose true implications were accessible.
These elites selectively filter and present facts to the public through the media, shaping their opinion by setting an agenda.
Due to the nature of the media and its audience, complex, multi-faceted issues are necessarily reduced to simplistic, easy-to-deliver news bytes.
Lippmann’s view was opposed by the philosopher John Dewey who argued that the media empowers the citizen and in turn allows the strengthening of the democratic process.
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For example, when we debate whether social media empowers or undermines democracy in the 21st century, we are discussing a version of the Lippmann-Dewey debate from the 1920s.
Because agenda-setting theory deals with people’s inner beliefs and thoughts (and how they are subtly influenced over time by media influence), it is difficult to objectively measure and quantify.
Agenda setting theory does not apply to cases where people have already decided on an issue. Simply put, these people’s opinions are reinforced by what they see in the media, rather than being influenced by the media as such. In such cases, the media only confirms a trend that already exists, rather than forming an opinion.
Reverse agenda setting is the process by which public opinion drives the media agenda, rather than the other way around (Haarsager, 2009). In the classic Lippmann-Dewey debate, the reverse agenda setting represents John Dewey’s position that mass media actually strengthen democracy by empowering the masses. Twitter trends, viral videos, online petitions, etc. are examples of reverse agenda setting.
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Agenda-setting theory was invented to explain the enormous influence of the mass media on what is “on the agenda” in public discourse.
Today, the theory is applied to examine the influence of social media networks and their algorithms on the news we receive and what the biases of those news networks are. It is as relevant as ever today when our divided news networks cause social rifts between the political left and right.
The advantage of new media, however, is that people can publish their own information online, leading to the emergence of a variety of alternative news networks, especially on YouTube. Additionally, platforms like Twitter allow us to provide feedback to media companies so that we can set their agenda and not the other way around.
Feezell, J.T. (2017). Agenda setting through social media: The importance of casual news exposure and social filtering in the digital age.
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Dr. Chris Drew is the founder of Helpful Teacher. He has a doctorate in education and has published more than 20 articles in academic journals. He is a former editor of the Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education. [Image Descriptor: Image by Chris] Today we look at the Theory of the Agenda Setting Function, which suggests that the media can’t tell you what to think, but it can tell you what to think.
The theory of the agenda-setting function was developed by Maxwell McCombs and Donald Shaw in 1972 as a result of
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