Grand Canyon University
The mass media today, no longer reports public opinion, it drives it. This paper discusses how mass media sets the agenda, and what impact this had on the issues that emerged during the 2008 presidential election. According to Donald Shaw and Maxwell Combs, agenda is a theory to describe now the news media can have a considerable impact on shaping the publics opinion of a social reality, on influencing what people believe are important issues. (Shaw&McCombs, 1977)
Media consolidation is one thing that contributes to agenda-setting. As the number of newspapers dwindles and radio and TV stations are sold to one or two conglomerates, the news is in effect being censored because it reflect only the viewpoint of a single organization. If conflicting views are never even mentioned, the public is never aware that there is an entirely different side to the issue than the one being presented. It requires persistence to find out the facts of an issue, and people may not make the effort.
Then too, the media itself has changed dramatically in recent years. Many people now get their news from digital media including the Internet, but the flood of electronic information may not make them more knowledgeable, just more informed about issues they may not consider important.
Marshall McLuhan once famously argued that the medium is the message; David Considine twists it slightly, to the idea that the “medium is the massage,” and that we are all being worked over by the media, in particular younger people (Considine, 2009, p. 65).
Today’s technology, people using several electronic devices simultaneously, a practice widely known as multitasking (Considine, 2009). Time Magazine wondered, however, if \people are “too wired for their own good,” and whether modern media were contributing to “students’ reduced attention spans, making it harder for educators to reach and teach them” (Considine, 2009, p. 65). There is a legitimate question as to whether this environment of electronic noise and constant communication makes them “active and informed citizens” or merely “spectators moving from one distraction to another” (Considine, 2009, p. 65). The answer seems clear when Considine reveals that despite the fact that in 2006, the number of young people ages 18-29 in the U.S. was 50 million, only seven million voted in the mid-term election (Considine, 2009). In other words, they have access to information but don’t transform that information into knowledge or political action. Younger people are a volatile population when it comes to voting. They become wildly enthusiastic for a particular candidate such as Ron Paul or Howard Dean, but fail to show up at the polls (Considine, 2009). Barack Obama was able to energize this group on his own behalf and that of other Democratic candidates: “Exit polling from the January 2008 Iowa caucus for the Democratic candidates showed a record turnout among eighteen-to twenty-nine year olds, who heavily supported the theme of change promoted by Senator Barack Obama” (Considine, 2009, p. 66). Now of course they seem to have disengaged again and organizations such as Democracy for America and Moveon.org are actively working to re-energize them and get them to the polls in November.
Part of Barack Obama’s success in the 2008 election was due to his savvy use of electronic media (Considine, 2009). He was able to “use new technology to reach and energize voters; his campaign built a substantial database and achieved record-breaking fundraising” (Considine, 2009, p. 66). It also seems logical that part of his appeal is that he does know how to use Twitter and FaceBook, and that he tweets personal messages; his electronic presence immediately makes his opponent look old and out of touch. He further endeared himself to young voters and “reaffirmed his commitment to communication technology when...