Sunday, September 23, 2012
Does Mass Media Control What We Think About?
"The Agenda-Setting Function of Mass Media" discusses the role of mass media in controlling what information the reader receives and what issues the reader should focus on. The authors conducted a study that focused on examining political campaign coverage in television, newspapers, news magazines, and editorial page coverages of newspapers and magazines. Among their findings, I found one particularly interesting: "a considerable amount of campaign news was not devoted to discussion of the major political issues but rather to analysis of the campaign itself" (McCombs 129). How does this affect what the reader thinks is important when watching campaign news? According to McCombs and Shaw's argument, the agenda-setting function of mass media will lead the reader to focus more on the elements of the campaign itself rather than on the issues being discussed in a political campaign. This goes to show how powerful the mass media can be in controlling what the audience has in their mind when evaluating a political candidate.
Recently, I have been browsing over headlines in Google News, and I couldn't but notice the disproportionate negativity in the news titles concerning presidential candidate Mitt Romney. As a person who is more or less apathetic towards politics in general, and very rarely follows information on the presidential candidates during election season, I find these headlines always have some influence over my perceptions of the presidential candidates. Moreover, as I read more deeply into the articles and find that they are largely about the candidates' actions and the characteristics of their campaigns, I realize how little I know about their perspectives on certain political issues. Is this healthy for the mass public? But then again, how much information a person consumes about these political candidates can vary, and is completely up to the person. I believe the mass media has a big role in agenda-setting for the audience; however, if one were truly concerned about the qualifications of these two candidates for president, s/he always has the option of looking more into the candidates' personal websites and more objective reports on their discussion of the issues.