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Important Elements of (International) Agenda Setting

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Presentation on theme: "Important Elements of (International) Agenda Setting"— Presentation transcript:

1 Important Elements of (International) Agenda Setting
Dr. Jeffrey Wimmer Institute of Media, Communication & Information University of Bremen, Germany

2 Outlook Basic elements of the theory
Example: Africa in the media coverage Discussion and Conclusions

3 What effect does the media have on your behavior (as a Journalist) and on the audience in general?

4 Journalists should have the sensitivity to be "asking people early on in the campaign what issues are you concerned about and then pushing the candidates to talk about these issues. Most journalists are message producers. They are not communicators." Max McCombs

5 McCombs (1997) defines what the agenda-setting role of the news media should be:
1. Professional Detachment: Agenda setting is not the goal of the news media but it is the "inadvertent by product" of news coverage. The media do not deliberately set the agenda and do not determine the pro and con of a particular issue. 2. Targeted Involvement: As a special institution, news media actively move the issues onto the public agenda 3. Boosterism: News media should become the forerunners of the issues that are important to the public. 4. A Point of Transition: News media must take a more active role in planning the overall community agenda through what is called public journalism.

6 Chapel Hill (Mc Combs/Shaw 1972)
Goal: The study wanted to measure the relationship between the pattern of news coverage of presidential election and the key issues of the campaign that the public perceived as important. The study asked 100 undecided voters to outline and rank issues as they saw them; the study simultaneously analyzed the contents of five newspapers, two newsmagazines and two television evening news that run from September 12 through October 6. The contents were divided into 15 categories and were differentiated into a major or a minor category.

7 Chapel Hill (Mc Combs/Shaw 1972)
Results: Major news media much more interested in reporting the analysis of the campaign of each candidate rather than the debate of the political issues. Furthermore, mass media influenced the voter’s assessment of what they thought as the major issues of the campaign. These undecided voters agreed more in the topics that closely paralleled to those in the media than to those about their own party or candidate preference. (The correlation between the media and voter’s perception were on major news items and on minor news items)

8 Basic elements of the theory
The first level of agenda setting is the selection of object or issue for attention ("what to think about" or the transfer of salience). Media coverage can create prominence for issues & people Media tell people what to think about – but not what to think Three possible effects Awareness model Salience model Priorities model

9 Basic elements of the theory
Society responds to the pseudo environment created by media, creating the perception of what the environment around them is. Agenda-setting establishes the salient issues or images in the minds of the public. Agenda setting occurs because the press is responsible for what we as the audience are allowed to hear. In order for an agenda to be set, there is a three-part linear process that must occur. First, the media agenda must be set; next, the public agenda is created; then, finally, in response, the policy makers/political leaders must make a policy agenda. In the simplest model, the media agenda directly affects the public agenda which directly affects the policy agenda.


11 Basic elements of the theory
Second level agenda setting is the selection of attributes for thinking (“how to think about”), Attributes are the characteristics and properties that detail the images of each object and issue Media tell people how to think about Priming = Focusing on certain issues Framing = Interpretation of stories

12 Priming Bringing some issues to the foreground, sending oters to the back Important Question is: How do journalists select the news? Framing How do Journalists tell the story? Example: Management makes „offers“ while labor unions make „demands“ Framing is inevitable, but should be used cautiously

13 Pro  It has explanitory power because it explains why most people prioritize the same issues as important.  It has predictive power because it predicts that if people are exposed to the same media, they will feel the same issues are important.  It is parsimonious because it isn’t complex, and it is easy to understand.  It can be proven false.  If people aren’t exposed to the same media, they won’t feel the same issues are important.  It’s meta-theoretical assumptions are balanced on the scientific side  It is a springboard for further research It has organizing power because it helps organize existing knowledge of media effects.

14 Contra Media users may be as ideal as the theory assumes. People may not be well-informed, deeply engaged in public affairs, thoughtful and skeptical. Instead, they pay casual and intermittent attention to public affairs, often ignorant of the details. For people who have made up their minds, the effect is weakened. News cannot create and conceal problems. The effect can merely alter the awareness, priorities and salience people attached to a set of problems.

15 Who sets the agenda for the agenda setters?
major news editors or “gatekeepers” politicians and their spin doctors public relations professionals “Interest aggregations”

16 Example Africa

17 Foreign news in German Media 1995
Wilke 1998: 51

18 Media coverage 1979 (1) compared to 1995 (2)
Wilke 1998: 53

19 Information as a commodity? Top priority are cost and profit?
Factors determing the ‚African agenda‘ Public Relations: Stereotypes? Journalism: Information as a commodity? Audience: Ignorance? Adequate Agenda? News Agencies: Top priority are cost and profit?

20 Priority (Angaben in Prozent)
N= 1272 Artikel

21 Topics (%) Gesamt 1991 2001 Prozente Nachrichtenthemen Konflikt
100 Gesamt 1991 2001 90 80 70 60 Prozente 46,8 24 17,4 3 3,9 2,4 2,6 50 42,2 20,7 17,2 3,4 5,1 7,4 4 37,8 17,5 17,1 3,8 6,3 12,2 5,4 40 30 20 10 Konflikt Politik Wirtschaft Sonstiges Ethik/Moral Katastrophen Gesellschaft Nachrichtenthemen N= 1272 Artikel

22 Focus on special african countries
1991 2001 Crossnational focus 3,7 8,4 Angola 8,9 1,7 Äthiopien 20,9 Burundi 2,4 Elfenbeinküste 0,6 2,0 Kenia 5,2 5,8 Kongo 11,0 Eritrea 0,1 7,2 Ruanda 2,5 5,3 Simbabwe 4,4 Somalia 13,9 Uganda 1,4 4,2 Mali 3,1 0,2 N= 1574 Nennungen Basis: 48 Länder

23 Speakers in the coverage
N= 1140 Nennungen

24 Negativity of the coverage 10,2% of the coverage is positive 20,8% is neutral/ambivalent 69% is negative

25 Sources 31,3% media correspondent 16,6% media at home
47,9% news agency 3,6% different sources 0,6% other sources (N=1272 Artikel)

26 Next Steps The theory has been circulating for the past 30 years and it will be circulating for many more years. The agenda setting will not only focus on the idea of media but it will expand to a new domain. The second-level of agenda setting (salience of attributes) has contributed a lot to the study beyond cognitive effects to behavioral effects. The growing studies on intermedia influence and media framing are some examples of the continuation of agenda setting theory.

27 Practical Uses – Media Tenor

28 Practical Uses - Advertising

29 Practical Uses – Advertising

30 Mediatization Due to the expansion of mass media supply citizen‘s exposure to mass media has increased considerably Exposure to newspapers, radio, TV, Internet on an average day, German citizens aged 14 and over; source: Best/Engel, in Media Perspektiven 1/2007, Tab. 1

31 New Media 32 million people traded s with jokes in them about the candidates. 31 million went online to find out how candidates were doing in opinion polls. 25 million used the internet to check the accuracy of claims made by or about the candidates. 19 million watched video clips about the candidates or the election. 17 million sent s about the campaign to groups of family members or friends as part of listservs or discussion groups. 16 million people checked out endorsements or candidate ratings on the Websites of political organizations. 14 million signed up for newsletters or other online alerts to get the latest news about politics. 7 million signed up to receive from the presidential campaigns. 4 million signed up online for campaign volunteer activities such as helping to organize a rally, register voters, or get people to the polls on Election Day. Source: Rainie/Cornfield/Horrigan (2005): The Internet and campaign Pew Internet & American Life Project. March (1. Mai 2006)

32 Adaption Candidates adapt their behavior to the television medium: Televised debate during the German campaign of 2005

33 Last word from the North
„Entwicklungsländer werden aufgrund der vorherrschenden Modi der Nachrichtenselektion in einem Ausmaß mit negativen Nachrichten über ihre eigenen Länder konfrontiert, die die westlichen Staaten in einer ähnlichen Entwicklungsphase kaum hingenommen hätten.“ (Kepplinger 1994)

34 Last word from the South
„Wenn Sie drei Monate lang darauf verzichten, Lügen über uns zu verbreiten, sind wir bereit, drei Monate lang die Wahrheit über Sie zu verschweigen.“ (Meshgena 1995)

35 Thank you very much and see you soon!

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