Are the media able to cover all the news that might be in one day? Is the public ready to understand all this information, with the same attention? I don’t think so, and media producers neither. Therefore, they have created something called ”Agenda setting”, in order to choose the most relevant news, remove the less relevant news, and try to measure the effects that they will have in the public.
In the conclusion of my last post, I said that we are continuously bombarded by useless media information since we are kids. However, the aim of media setting is ‘to help’ people focus their attention in concrete issues. Therefore, they don’t say people what to think or talk, but they are telling them what to talk about. The final result is that the media decide what is important for the public, so they determine the public agenda, too. For example, if I watch the news, and they only inform about the economic inflation or a scandal about a politician, when I talk with other people I will talk about this topics just because the media thought that these were the most relevant news of the day. I think that, if media is working so, we are continuously being manipulated because there are many news that we cannot know just because some people considered them boring. However, I think that we don’t have the ability to receive all the existing news every day, because we have limited attention and capacity.
On the other hand, Agenda setting reminds me of Two-step flow theory. The two-step states that there are ‘gatekeepers’ in the society, called opinion leaders, that have the capacity to filter the information, remove the useless one and give a new interpretation of the media content to the opinion followers, influencing them. The agenda setting is based on the same process: there are also ‘gatekeepers’ that determine, very subjectively, which are the most relevant news, that have to be exposed to the public, and which are the less important news that have to ignored. Then, the public receive just that filtered information and introduce it in its conversations.
Another point in agenda setting, that I find interesting, is the ”need for orientation”. Also, I would link this idea with Limited-effects theory. One of the key ideas of limited-effects was that, if we have clearly defined choices and preferences, for example, about political orientation, media would have very low effects if it tries to change his or her mind. On the other hand, if I don’t have clear religious or political ideology, I will be influenced easier by any media message. The need for orientation say something similar. For example, if I have high interest in political issues, but I also have high uncertainty, the need for orientation will be higher because I don’t have a clear idea about the political issue and, therefore, the agenda setting will be stronger. Additionally, I think that is very important the personal experience. If I see the economic inflation in my life every day, because I see the price of the gas or the price of the food when I go to the supermarket, I am well informed about that issue and I don’t need additional information from the media. On the other hand, if I have no idea about the political situation in Palestine and I don’t have a personal experience related to Palestine, maybe I would need information provided by the media in order to satisfy my needs for orientation and decrease the uncertainty.
My conclusion is that, indeed, we are bombed by thousands of ads and useless information every day. However, if we are talking about news, by agenda setting we are bombed by extremely concrete information, which is carefully chosen by a gatekeeper. Therefore, I think we should have clear political ideas, and we will not be manipulated. We should have our own agenda setting.