AGENDA-SETTING THEORY 7
Agenda-Settingand Agenda-building Theory
Thetheory under discussion is the agenda-setting theory, and the newsand information effects of the theory in agenda building. The theoryis about the influence of the mass media on the public agenda.According to the theory, if a news item or piece of information iscovered prominently and regularly in the media, the public, who arethe audience, will consider the issue to be important (McCombs& Shaw,1972). In holding this assertion, the theory takes two fundamentalassumptions. The first assumption is that the mass media and newsfilter and shape the reality other than reflect it. Secondly, thetheory assumes that the concentration of the media on a few issueswill consequently spark public opinion that sets and builds theagenda.
Wewould expect this theory to apply in politics where the focus of themedia on an issue creates political discussions about it. The theorywould apply on the political scene because it is the area that dealswith consistent public commentary about an issue. At the same time,the issues covered in the media would most prominently be morepolitical than other areas (Lee & McCombs2012).This theory cannot apply in the area of science or scientificrepresentation of facts.
However,this theory does not pertainto certain individuals, certain content, certain media, or withincertain contexts.This is because the theory can be relevant in almost all the areasthat the media can focus their coverage on (McCombs& Shaw,1972). The theory therefore does not apply to only certainindividuals or content, but all the people or content that can becovered. In addition, the theory is not limited to, certain contextsor certain media, but all the areas that an issue affects. TheAgenda-Setting theory simply holds that news item or informationfeatured regularly and prominently in the media will be regarded asthe most important by the audience.
Importanceof the theory’s predictions
Thepredictions of the theory are important in practice as represented bythe practical implications of the setting of the agenda, which leadsto the building of the agenda (McCombs& Shaw,1972). One of the practical implications of the theory’s outcomesis the interaction of the public, policy makers and the media(Hans-Bernd & Mathias, 1990). Secondly, the mass mediabroadcasters practically shape the reality of the public domain. Thetheory determines the setting of an agenda that is consumed in thepublic domain, but propagated by the mass media. In addition, theimplication of the theory is an explanation of the reason whypolitical realities are associated with the media. The theoryexplains how the mass media create issues in the public domain, whichare taken to be political.
Thetheory’s outcome is more important in two main audiences. The firstaudience is the media producers. The outcome of the theory explainsto the media producers the responsibility that rests on them inregard to the stories, issues and items they focus regularly on theirbroadcasts. This will give them a caution that they should not createreality that may not be beneficial to the society. The secondaudience is the government officials and politicians. The outcome ofthe theory gives government officials and politicians a reminder oftheir public influence. This is because coverage of politicians inthe media influences the public perception of their leadership androle in the country (Lee & McCombs,2012).
Theconcerns about the theory are important because the outcomes of thepredictions have economic,political, legal and social implications.This is because the reality that is shaped about an issue by the massmedia broadcasters influences the way the public views the subject.The implications of the news items in the media become political andsocial when discussed items are politics. Similarly, the implicationsare legal when they infringe on people’s rights. At the same time,the implications are economic when the outcomes of an issue lead toeconomic changes or effects.
Currentstate of research on the theory
Researchhas been done on the agenda-setting theory and findings have proventhe application and practicality of the assertions of the theory. Thefirst research to review is by a team of researchers led by Wirth,Matthes and Schemer (2010). The research focused on the effect of thetheory on the referendum campaign. The research specifically soughtto investigate the flow of arguments among the public as presented inthe media and campaigners. The research found out that the flow ofthe arguments and opinion is top-down in nature. The arguments movefrom the campaigners to news media organizations and then to thepublic (Wirth et al, 2010).
Thesecond research was done by Conway, Kenski and Wang (2015) toinvestigate the gender-setting effect of the rise of Twitter andsocial media in political campaigns in presidential primaries. Theresearch found out a symbiotic relationship between the conventionalmedia and the topics being discussed on Twitter posts about thepresidential primaries. This relates to the findings that the mediaaffects the voter reactions in the presidential primaries (Lee &McCombs,2012). Therewas a correlation between the issues discussed about democrats andrepublicans with those discussed in the modern media.
Accordingto the views of the two studies, the current state of research is notany different from the way the theory was originally defined. This isbecause the theory presents the fundamental effects of the mass mediabroadcasters in relation to the public views on the issue run but themedia (McCombs, 2012). The study by Wirth et al (2010), found outthat the news broadcasters made a significant impact on the way thereferendum campaigns were shaped. While the traditional mediathemselves influenced the public view, the airing of news and theposts on Twitter and social media by the campaigners and publicshowed a similar effect on the public opinion.
Thetheory is being applied to technology due to the use of technology inthe mass media. The impact of technology is significantly felt in theway the mass media broadcast news and information in the modernworld. Therefore, technology will be a critical, part of theapplication of the theory. While technology is influential, it onlyaffects the way the information or news is broadcast. Therefore, thetheory is applied to technology due to its use in the normal media.
Thetheory is still hot in the way it is applied and practically used.The implications of the theory in explaining the public agenda makeit a significant explanation of the society. This makes it a hottheory, even in the present day. The relevance of the theory isrealized when describing the interaction between the policy makersand the public through the mass media broadcasters (Kiousis& McCombs, 2004).The research by Wirth et al (2010), verifies this interaction byfinding out the top-down movement of the arguments from campaignersto the public.
Applicationof the theory
Thetheory of agenda-setting can be applied in the field of business interms of corporate image. A person interested in corporate brandingand business image will find the theory useful in evaluating theimplications of the issues, information and news about a firm in themedia. The theory can be applied to solve a problem of why acompany’s image is lowly regarded in the public.
Ifthe corporate image a company is eroded drastically, with no changesin other fundamental factors like ethics and quality, the theory canbe used. The theory is applicable to evaluate the effect of the mediareports and news by broadcasters about the corporate organization.
Inthis regard, negative news about the company could hurt its brandingand image if the broadcasters regularly and prominently feature thenews or information about the company. The flow of opinion orarguments would be from the events that cause the news, to thebroadcasters and finally to the public (Kiousis& McCombs, 2004).The arguments and the opinions in the public domains are the factorsthat shape the reality through agenda-setting and agenda-building.
However,the practicality of the agenda-setting outcomes and implications canalso be used for positive corporate image. Just as the mass mediabroadcasters can lead to a negative image, the same broadcasters canbe used to create a positive corporate image for companies. This canbe achieved through prominent and regular featuring of the targetedcorporate organizations in their broadcast. This explains whycorporate bodies are engaged in events that attract the attention ofthe mass media broadcasters. Therefore, to solve the problems thatmay be associated with negative publicity, corporate bodies shouldengage in activities and events of public good. These will attractmass media broadcasters who will feature them in good image.
Conway,B.A., Kenski,K.,& Wang, D. (2015). TheRise of Twitter in the Political Campaign: Searching for IntermediaAgenda-Setting Effects in the Presidential Primary. Journalof Computer-Mediated Communication Volume20, Issue 4, pages 363–380
Hans-Bernd,B., & Mathias, H.K. (1990). TheAgenda-Setting Function of Television News: Static and Dynamic Views,CommunicationResearch, Vol.17,No.2:pp.183-211
Kiousis,S., & McCombs, M. (2004). Agenda-SettingEffects and Attitude Strength: PoliticalFigures Duringthe1996 Presidential Election. COMMUNICATIONRESEARCH, Vol. 31 No. 1, February 2004 36-57
Lee,B., & McCombs,M.E. (2012). TheRole of The Press in Determining Voter Reactions to PresidentialPrimaries,Human Communication Research, Vol.4, No.4 pages301–307
McCombs,M.E. (2012). Explorersand Surveyors: Expanding strategies for Agenda-Setting research.ProquestLLC, JournalismQuarterly
McCombs,M.E., & Shaw,D. (1972). The Agenda-Setting Function Of Mass Media, ThePublic Opinion Quarterly,Vol. 36, No. 2, 1972, pp. 176-187
Wirth,W., Matthes, J., Schemer, C., Wettstein, M., Friemel, T., Hänggli,R., & Siegert, G. (2010). Agenda Building and Setting in aReferendum Campaign. Investigating the Flow of Arguments AmongCampaigners, the Media, and the Public. Journalismand Mass Communication Quarterly ,87(2), 328-345