Three kinds of agenda setting: Focus of this talk is on who or what sets the news media agenda. Most studies so far focused on public agenda setting.
Common to think that journalists set the news media agenda. Several studies question this assumption. May be too simple to think of journalists as main agenda setters.
This talk will consider three major influences: • News sources 2. Other news media 3. Norms and traditions of journalism
Most influential news source in the United States is the president. Can measure president’s agenda in State of the Union address and compare it to the news media agenda. Studies done for Presidents Nixon (1970), Carter (1978), Reagan (1982, 1985) and Clinton (1996).
Why mixed findings? Study from 1981-1996 suggests “issue ownership” explanation. President is more likely to set media agenda for issues “owned” by his party, and follow the media agenda for other issues.
PR (government & commercial) is another important influence on news agenda Sigal study found nearly half of Times and Post front page stories based on PR. Reporting of AIDS based largely on information subsidies.
More PR influences Louisiana study found news coverage based substantially on information provided by government public information officers. City of Bloomington study found strong correlation between city council and media agendas.
Political campaigns also an important influence on news agendas Political ads try to control campaign and media agendas. British-U.S. comparative study found significant differences in agenda setting.
More political influences Study of U.S. presidential election found media discretion in agenda setting. Study of U.S. primary elections found only moderate correlations between candidates’ and TV news agendas, as did study of convention speeches and news coverage. U.S. journalists not willing to let candidates dictate news agenda.
A Texas election study found influence of candidate advertising agenda on newspaper and TV news agendas.
Evidence of New York Times and wire service agendas on other news media. “Pack journalism” a la Timothy Crouse, author of The Boys on the Bus. Global warming study and intermedia agenda setting. Iowa wire service study.
Intermedia agenda setting is not limited to the U.S. Spanish election study German alternative press study (first and second level agenda setting)
Intermedia agenda setting produces a highly redundant news agenda within a single country or culture. News agendas vary across cultures and countries, depending on norms of journalism and politics. • Study of political communication cultures in Germany and the U.S.
Agenda setting research has expanded geographically and in scope. Journalists alone are not entirely responsible for news agendas. Often a tendency to overestimate power of journalists to set news agendas.
Studies of U.S. journalists show that most do not consider setting agendas to be a very important role for journalists. Some prominent U.S. journalists more willing to do so, such as the late Katherine Graham and columnist David Broder of The Washington Post.
Evidence on media agenda setting suggests agendas are constructed as • a joint product between prominent sources and journalists; • between prominent media and other media; and • According to the norms and traditions of journalism in a certain culture or country.
Difficult to say whether prominent news sources or journalists have more influence in media agenda setting in general, at least in relatively free and open political systems. Uncertainty increases fascination with studying media agenda setting in different cultures and countries, and during different time periods.
Need more research on who sets news media agenda in different countries. Recent debate in U.S. over whether web sites such as the Drudge Report are main news agenda setters.