Communication Theory (Agenda Setting)


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  • Maxwell McCombs and Donald Shaw
    They believe that the mass media have the ability to transfer the salience of items on their news agendas to the public agenda.
  • Agenda-setting theory contrasted with the prevailing selective exposure hypothesis, reaffirming the power of the press while maintaining individual freedom.
    It represented a back-to-the-basics approach to mass communication research, with a focus on election campaigns.
    The hypothesis predicts a cause-and-effect relationship between media content and voter perception, particularly a match between the media’s agenda and the
    public’s agenda later on. 
  • In their groundbreaking study, McCombs and Shaw first measured the media agenda.
    They established the position and length of story as the primary criteria of prominence.
    They disregarded articles about matters extrinsic to the issues.
    The remaining stories were divided into five major issues and ranked in order of importance.
    Rankings provided by uncommitted voters aligned closely with the media’s agenda. 
  • McCombs and Shaw believe that the hypothesized agenda-setting function of the media causes the correlation between the media and public ordering of
    However, correlation does not prove causation.
    To examine whether the media agenda and the public agenda might just reflect current events, Ray Funkhouser documented a situation in which there was a strong relationship between media and public agendas. 
    The twin agendas did not merely mirror reality, but Funkhouser failed to establish a chain of influence from the media to the public.
    Shanto Iyengar, Mark Peters, and Donald Kinder’s experimental study confirmed a cause-and-effect relationship between the media’s agenda and the public’s
  • Those susceptible have a high need for orientation or index of curiosity.
    Need for orientation arises from high relevance and uncertainty.   
  • I.Framing: transferring the salience of attributes.
    A.Throughout the last decade, McCombs has emphasized that the media influence the way we think.
    B.This process is called framing.
    1.A media frame is the central organizing idea for news content that supplies a context and suggests what the issue is through the use of selection, emphasis, exclusion, and elaboration.
    2.This definition suggests that media not only set an agenda, but also transfer the salience of specific attributes to issues, events, or candidates.
  • The transfer of salience of an attitude object in the mass media’s pictures of the world to a prominent place among the pictures in our heads.
    The transfer of salience of a bundle of attributes the media associate with an attitude object to the specific features of the image in our minds.
    Not just what to think about, but how to think about it.
    A.Two national election studies suggest that framing works by altering pictures in the minds of people, and through the construction of an agenda with a cluster of related attributes, creating a coherent image.
    B.Salma Ghanem’s study of Texans tracked the second level of agenda setting and suggested that attribute frames have a compelling effect on the public.
    A.McCombs and Shaw now contend that the media may not only tell us what to think about, they also may tell us who and what to think about it, and perhaps even what to do about it. 
  • See Griffin. 384 on media agenda and behaviour
  • News Editors
    PR Pros
    Interest Aggregations: Clusters of people who demand center stage for their one overriding concern; pressure groups (antiabortion, antiwar, anti gay marriage)
  • The power of agenda setting that McCombs and Shaw describe may be on the wane.
    The media may not have as much power to transfer the salience of issues or attributes as it does now as a result of users’ expanded content choices and control
    over exposure.
    Renita Coleman found that while the younger generation relies on the Internet, baby boomers favor TV, and the civic generation preferred newspapers.
  • Ethical reflections: Christians’ communitarian ethics.
  • Communication Theory (Agenda Setting)

    1. 1. Agenda Setting Theory Not what to think! What to think about
    2. 2. Selective Exposure Agenda Setting
    3. 3. Testing the Theory Criteria for Prominenc e Position Length
    4. 4. What Causes What? Agenda Setting Function Media Correlation Public Ordering of Priorities
    5. 5. Who is Most Affected? Susceptibil ity High Need for Orientation High Index for Curiosity
    6. 6. Framing
    7. 7. 2 Levels of Agenda Setting Images Agenda Setting Attributes
    8. 8. Behavioral Effects Media Agenda Public Opinion Behaviour
    9. 9. Who Sets the Agenda? Editors Interest Aggregati on News Doesn’t Set Itself PR Pros Candidat es
    10. 10. Will New Media Still Shape Agenda?
    11. 11. Ethical Reflections Clifford Christians believes that discovering the truth is still possible if we are willing to examine the nature of our humanity. His communitarian ethics establish civic transformation rather than objective information as the primary goal of the press. He insists that media criticism must be willing to reestablish the idea of moral right and wrong. Journalists have a social responsibility to promote the sacredness of life.
    12. 12. Critiques Predicts that the public’s agenda for the salience of attitude objects and key attributes will follow the media’s lead Explains why some people are more susceptible to media influence than others Testable by using content analysis to establish media agenda, surveys to determine public opinion Practical Utility as it tells media, candidates how to alter the pictures in the heads of the audience.
    13. 13. Recap The media tell us (1) what to think about, and (2) how to think about it. The first process agenda setting transfers the salience of items on their news agenda to our agenda. The second process framing transfers the salience of selected attributes to prominence among the pictures in our heads.