Theretical Review-Agenda Setting Theory

Topics: Mass media, News media, Media studies Pages: 19 (7332 words) Published: June 24, 2011
Theoretical Review
Agenda Setting Theory

Mass communication plays an important role in society where its purpose to inform the public about current and even past events. Mass communication is defined as the process whereby professional communicators use technological devices to share messages over great distances to influence large audiences. According to Littlejohn & Foss (2005), mass communication is the process whereby media organizations produce and transmit messages to large publics and the process by which those messages are sought, used, understood, and influenced by audiences. Within this process the media, which can be a newspaper, a book and television, takes control of the information that can see or hear. The media then uses gatekeeping and agenda setting to control public access to news, information, and entertainment. Gatekeeping is a series of checkpoints that the news has to go through before it gets to the public. Through this process many people have to decide whether or not the news is to be seen or heard. Some gatekeepers might include reporters, writers, and editors. After gatekeeping comes agenda setting. According to Dennis McQuail cited in Littlejohn & Foss (2005), media are windows that enable us to see beyond our immediate surroundings, interpreters that help us make sense of experience, platforms or carriers that convey information, interactive communication that includes audience feedback, signposts that provide us with instructions and directions, filter that screen out parts of experience and focus on other, mirrors that reflect ourselves back to us, and barriers that block the truth. Agenda setting as defined is the process whereby the mass media determine what public think and worry about. Agenda setting started when Walter Lippmann, a journalist first observed this function and write Public Opinion in 1922. Lippmann titled his first chapter as “The World Outside and the Pictures in Our Heads”. Lippmann was the person who presented the theory that the mass media make our pictures of the world and inform us about the world events. However, he anticipated that the pictures provided by the media were most of the time incomplete and distorted. People can see only reflections of reality but not reality itself in the news media. Lippmann pointed out that the media dominates over the creation of pictures in our head; he believed that the public reacts not to actual events but to the pictures in our head. However, those reflections provide the basis for our perceptions about the world. Therefore the agenda setting process is used to remodel all the events occurring in our environment, into a simpler model before we deal with it. Researchers Maxwell McCombs and Donald Shaw have then followed this concept.  In 1972, researchers McCombs & Shaw conducted an empirical study to investigate the idea that the news media organizations influence our perceptions of the world. As described in the first chapter of this dissertation two researchers from the University of North Carolina thought whether the topics accepted by the news media to represent the outer world reduced the types of events that people used to think about the world. They also thought whether the public’s perception of reality depended on the topics the news media covered or it was not the case. It was a tremendous beginning of a new mass communications theory, which can be divided into two aspects. The first aspect relates with the transmission of issue or object salience from the media agenda to the public agenda. The second aspect relates with the role of news media in framing those issues and things in the minds of masses (Littlejohn & Foss, 2005). Agenda setting theory is a theory that attempts to explain the impact of mass media on society. It is about media power to influence society or audience. Agenda-setting describes a very powerful influence of the media. The Agenda setting...
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