Wednesday, July 7, 2010

A Full "Agenda" for the Audience

by Manuel Ayala

Agenda setting is a well known theory on mass communication, it declares that media set the topics that the people need to know, letting them see what events and themes are the most important for them. It sounds very good… in a strictly functionalist point of view.

In the early 20´s Walter Lippmann, a respected journalist and scholar from Harvard University declared that the media are the main link between world´s events and facts, and the images of that on the audience´s mind and opinion. Nowadays it seems to be the same. The technology has helped to promote easy and quick access to unlimited content, but there is a truth: people still keep informed by using just a few media outlets.

We discussed this topic today at an interesting lecture conducted by Professor Mary Rogus at SUSI 2010. After a great group participation it came to my mind the thought that there is a potential “risk” in this theory: Who decides what is important for the audience to know? For example, can the editors of a newspaper really know the everyone's needs and information expectations? Are their decisions free from any ideology? What happens to the news that is rejected everyday on the editor´s desk? Aren´t there relevant aspects of it for people to know? Many organizational routines on the newsmaking processes may affect all this.

The media sets a full agenda for the audience--like there are many appointments and meetings, and there seems to be no option for the people to say “no”, except to reject it all.

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