The agenda-setting theory (AST) alludes to the ability of the mass media to transfer the salience of items on their news agendas to the public agenda. AST is a dynamic and complicated phenomenon that was first hypothesized and measured by Maxwell McCombs and Donald Shaw during the 1968 presidential election. But, the formation of the theory is built upon the history of the correlation between the media and public ordering of priorities and the mass communications theories that preceded it. In order to fully understand AST, the intellectual journey that was partaken by McCombs and Shaw (along with extensions and criticisms of the theory), it is necessary to recognize what came before AST. To quote Aristotle, if you would understand anything, observe its beginning and its development.
[...] (1989) Structural Equation Models for the Analysis of the Agenda-setting Process. European Journal of Communication Sage: London. Kamieniecki, Sheldon. (2000). Testing Alternative Theories of Agenda Setting: Forest Policy Change in British Columbia, Canada. Policy Studies Journal pp.176-89. Lippmann, Walter. (1922) Public Opinion. New York: Macmillan. Loka, S. (1994). Issue Definitions, Agenda Building, and Policymaking. Policy Currents pp.13-39. Maher, T. Michael. (1977). Media Framing and Public Perception of Environmental Causality. Southwestern Mass Communication Journal pp.61- 73. McCombs, M. E., & Ghanem, S. [...]
[...] Two basic assumptions are at the heart of AST; the media does not reflect reality, they filter and shape it; and media concentration on a few issues and subjects leads the public to perceive those issues as more important than other issues. The agenda-setting function of the media can be seen as the media setting the dinner table for dinner guests (the public); presenting certain dishes in a way that makes the guests place more importance on consumption of those items (such as a huge turkey with all the fixings on an expensive platter) and less importance on consumption or rejection of food items that are not presented in the same manner ( for example, grandma's fruitcake wrapped in tin foil and hidden behind the mashed potatoes). [...]
[...] The results of the second study further supported the AST hypothesis, and presented the theory that if the media are able to shape the public agenda then it is possible that they present problems or political issues to the public agenda that are not truly dominant. short, the political world is reproduced imperfectly by individual news media” (McCombs, 184), which further validated Cohen's pseudoenvironment theory. concept of agenda-setting emphasizes one very important aspect of this pseudoenvironment; the salience or amount of emphasis accorded the various issues vying for public attention” (McCombs and Shaw, 8). [...]
[...] These limitations must be noted in order to paint a complete picture of the agenda-setting theory, and simply for the fact that, as Zeuxis reflected in 400 B.C., “criticism comes easier than craftsmanship.” One primary criticism of AST is that the theory is “mass media-centric,” excessively enamored with the exaggerated power and influence of the mass media (Burd p. 291). Critics such as Burd contend that advocates of AST are giving the mass media too much credit and the minds of individuals too little credit; creating the image of a public that is “waiting out there in an amorphous mass society to be acted upon as they are being fed a presumably accurate account of the real world” (Burd p. [...]
[...] This drastic change in thought led to a plethora of empirical studies that demonstrated the agenda-setting function of the media, with AST research presently experiencing a multi-faceted expansion in terms of media content/issues analyzed and methodology used in AST research. References Berger, P., & Luckmann, T. (1995). The Social Construction of Reality. New York: Anchor Books. Borchard, Gregory. (2003). The Firm of Greeley, Weed, and Seward: New York Partisanship and the Press, 1840-1860. Ph.D. Dissertation, University of Florida. Burd, G. [...]
Online readingwith our online reader
Content validatedby our reading committee