Agenda Setting

Hans-Bernd Brosius and Alexander Haas

in Communication

ISBN: 9780199756841
Published online February 2011 | | DOI:
Agenda Setting

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The original idea of the agenda-setting (AS) function of news media is both obvious and convincing. This may have contributed to the fact that AS is one of the most frequently investigated approaches in research on mass media effects. It is based on the assumption that most people, for most issues, have only one way to learn what goes on in the world: the news media. They set the agenda and thus have the ability to influence the perceived importance of issues. In other words, AS scholars assume that increased media coverage of an issue leads to increased public perception of the importance of that issue. News media do not tell people what to think, but rather what to think about. Therefore, it should be the responsibility of the mass media to tell people what problems have to be solved and what issues should be thought about. AS focuses on the cognitive effects of mass media and can be distinguished from research on persuasive effects. Despite the large number of empirical studies, some scholars still see AS more as a metaphor than a structured theory. Its theoretical foundations are criticized for being too simple and rooted in a stimulus-response context. Since the 1990s there have been attempts to link AS to the concepts of framing and priming. Some scholars reacted to these ideas by introducing second-level AS. Such a conceptualization would extend the basic assumption of AS. That broadened concept addresses the question of not only whether news media tell their audience what to think about, but also whether they influence how people think about issues. Early-21st-century developments of online communication have confronted AS with new challenges, both theoretically and methodologically.

Article.  10026 words. 

Subjects: Communication Studies

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