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Agenda Setting Theory

Explanation of Theory: The Agenda-Setting Theory says the media (mainly the news media) arent always successful at telling us what to think, but they are quite successful at telling us what to think about.

Theorist: Maxwell McCombs and Donald L. Shaw Date: 1972/1973 Primary Article: McCombs, M., & Shaw, D.L. (1972). The agenda-setting function of the mass media.Public Opinion Quarterly, 36, 176-185. Individual Interpretation: This theory is good at explaining why people with similar media exposure place importance on the same issues. Although different people may feel differently about the issue at hand, most people feel the same issues are important. Critique: The Agenda-Setting Theory comes from a scientific perspective, because it predicts that if people are exposed to the same media, they will place importance on the same issues. According to Chaffee & Bergers 1997 criteria for scientific theories, Agenda -Setting is a good theory. 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 isnt complex, and it is easy to understand. It can be proven false. If people arent exposed to the same media, they wont feel the same issues are important. Its 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.

Example: Actions surrounding the O.J. case and the Clinton Scandal are both excellent examples of Agenda-Setting in action. During these historic events, the media was ever-present. The placement of full page, color articles and top stories on news programming made it clear that Americans should place these events as important issues. Some people believed O.J. was guilty, and others believed he was innocent. Some believed Clinton should have been impeached, and others thought otherwise. Therefore, the media wasnt extremely successful in telling us what to think on these issues, but most Americans did believe these were both important issues for a long period of time.