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Agenda-Setting Theory Do you believe the media has an effect on the way you view and behave towards different stories that are covered when you choose to watch the news? According to journalism professors Maxwell McCombs and Donald Shaw, the media has such a great effect on the viewers to the point that it does not tell us what to think, but it does tell us what to think about by the way in which they present the different stories. McCombs and Shaw once said, We judge as important what the media judge as important (p. 378). Viewers do not go to different locations to obtain first hand, primary information on subjects, they turn the media, local or national, to provide them with the latest secondary information on what they need to know. Walter Lippmann stated: The media act as a mediator between the world outside and the pictures in our heads. (p. 378) This is a look into what the professionals have established as the Agendasetting theory. Theories cannot evolve with they do not have a hypothesis to help establish the base. The Agenda-setting theory hypothesis predicts a cause and effect relationship between media content and voter perception (p. 379). We must also take into consideration that not everything has a direct effect, because if it did Al Gore might have been president instead of George W Bush. Banning and Colman (2006) conducted a study based on the presidential election between Al Gore and George W. Bush. This study was conducted on the undecided voters perceptions of which man they viewed to be more/less visually compelling, and who was more/less willing to obtain their votes based on their presentation they received by the medias portrayal of the two men. This study found that Bush scored significantly higher than Gore in derogatory nonverbal cues from the viewers perceptions they received from how the media portrayed his image. Gore was voted more of a friendly individual with a more trusting appearance. If we were to go on the

cause and effect Gore would have probably been the winner instead of Bush. However, not everyone is affected the same way by the medias portrayal of Bush and Gore. News mediums base their channel on certain views and down grade the others. CNN leans more democratic in comparison to the more republican fox. It is very difficult to change the perception of a viewer who is a hardcore republican to a democratic view, because this, the media must be aware of the public agenda in determining what they wish to portray to their viewers. People who have a willingness to let the media shape their thinking have a high need for orientation. Others refer to it as an index of curiosity. Need for orientation arises from high relevance and uncertainty. According to McCombs and Shaw, this combination would make a likely candidate to be influenced by certain media stories. The media make some issues more salient. We pay greater attention to those issues and regard them as more important (p. 381). Dunaway, Branton, and Abrajano (2010) conducted a study on immigration, and how influenced and concerned were the border states compared to that of the non-border states on this topic. Due to the higher relevance of the border states viewers, a greater number had many concerns about the future and the increasing growth of immigration. When the study was conducted on the non-border states the index of curiosity was very low, because the issues had little relevance to the viewers. The study showed that the only time the border states were concerned with increasing immigration numbers was during the peak of the immigration season in April. This is the time when the media was more likely to capture border patrol on duty. If the issue does not pertain to the viewers, the media must find a way in which to capture the audiences attention. For example, when you come across a Hispanic who does not speak hardly any English the media has placed that thought in our head that this may be an immigrant who made it across the border. However, statistics have shown that most Hispanics who have come to the United States

prefer to raise their children in an environment that speaks purely Spanish. Because of this, the children of only Spanish speaking homes may suffer when it is time to go to a purely English speaking school, but if they do well they will excel with a double language later on. When the media talks about the Hispanic population growing this is of little concern to the viewers, but if it deals with more of a negative aspect of immigration this creates awareness. The media has to be able to frame the way in which they wish their viewers to perceive certain stories. James Tankard, one of the leading writers on mass communication theory defines a media frame as the central organizating idea for news content that supplies a context and suggests what the issue is through the use of selection, emphasis, exclusion, and elaboration (p. 381) Besova and Cooley (2006) conducted a study on the foreign news and the public opinions of the viewers in comparison to the Agenda-setting theory. This established a really intriguing perception of how different cultures conduct their news. In countries like Germany the media tries to convey stories on a more positive level to create a better perspective to the viewers. However, in English speaking countries like that of the USA and UK, we are on the same level of negative media is more intriguing to watch in comparison to that of neutral or positive news. The study showed that if the media can relate it back home to the viewer they are more enthralled with the stories. For example, it is shown that when before 2011 Arabs were not even considered a likely threat to anyone, but after 2011 every single one of them was considered a possible terrorist waiting to attack at any given moment. Lord help you if you were an Arab on a plane shortly after 2011, because I remember back when the media placed those thought of doubts in our heads. The media can not only have an impact on the way we think about certain things, it can also influence our behavior towards them as well. I also remember seeing on the news years ago multiple stories concerning fights at schools, air ports, and other

places breaking out over racial discrimination. To be honest, I would say that the racial discrimination factor for the Arabs have decreased, but you can still tell that Americans are still very leery of them when they are around. The article also talked about how certain issues that are considered popular in some countries have little to no concern in others. For example, in Brazil soccer is considered a main topic of conversation, and the viewers are on a need to know bases about this sport. If the media was to have a story about soccer here it would create little to no concern, because it is of a lower stance in comparison to the favorable negative stories we love to watch. From class we learn that twenty second stories are placed on the more neutral or positive stories and twenty minute stories are those created by the negative stories that the media has to offer. If the media controls all these stories in which to show to the viewer, you have to eventually wonder who is the person(s) who selects all these news worthy stories? There are two alternatives that our book discusses as possible selectors of political dialogue. The first alternative is the operations chiefs of the Associated press, and the second is the candidates and office holders. The text has created a way in which to see how things are taken in perspective. Current thinking on news selection focuses on the crucial role of public relations professionals working for government agencies, corporations, and interest groups (p.386). When finding a story some stand out in comparison to others and they create their own interest which in turn forces the media to cover it. Banning and Colman (2006) study on the Bush and Gore election

was created off the voters perspectives on each man. The viewers created a strong interest in the recount which in turn forced the media to cover it, and it became headlining news. McCombs (2005) was established in interest in how the media would affect the future generations to come. There were findings proving that more was gained by reading that days

newspaper than watching an hour of that nights news. This same study was also talked about in the text. The studys findings were very interesting in determining the way in which the people had evolved in media viewing. Most of the young generation (18 to 34) relied on the Internet for news, middle-aged viewers (35 to 54) tended to favor the TV, and older readers (55+) preferred newspapers. The correlation between the media agenda and the younger generation was somewhat lower than for boomers or the older generation, but at 0.70 it was still high (p. 387). The ways in which we get our news is changing, and the media has to be able to evolve with the changing between the generations to keep up. The younger generation does not choose to find its information based on the same sources as our grandparents. The internet has become a popular tool that we use to keep up with the times. The interesting thing to note is my generation reads blogs, which are someones secondary opinion, instead of heading for the newspaper. Visuals are very impacting in cultivating our emotional pull towards the message. The problem most are concerned about is the future of the viewers, and them being able to disregard other stories by just simply clicking on the ones they like from the list they see. In closing, the media must now figure out a way in which to establish a correlation with the viewer by not only capturing the attention of the audience, but also by framing the story in such a way that it is appealing and creates a need for orientation with the viewers.

References Besova, A. and Cooley, S. (2009). Foreign News and Public Opinion: Attribute Agenda-Setting Theory Revisited. African Journalism Studies (University of Wisconsin Press), 30 (2), 219-242. Coleman, R. & Banning, S (2006). Network TV News Affective Framing of the Presidential Candidates: Evidence for Second-Level. Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly,83 (2), p313-328. Dunaway, J., Branton, R., Abrajano, M. (2010). Agenda Setting, Public Opinion, and the Issue of Immigration Reform. Social Science Quarterly (Blackwell Publishing Limited), 91 (2), p359-378 Griffin, E. (2012). A First Look At Communication Theory: Eighth edition. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill. McCombs, M. (2005) A Look at Agenda-setting: past, present and future. Journalism Studies, 6 (4), p543-557