According to the agenda-setting theory, first developed by Prof. Maxwell McCombs and Prof. Donald Shaw in their Chapel Hill study (1968), mass media sets the agenda for public opinion by highlighting certain issues. In studying the way political campaigns were covered in the media, Shaw and McCombs found that the main effect of the news media was to set an agenda, i.e. to tell people not what to think, but what to think about as opposed to persuasion or attitude change. Agenda setting is usually referred to as a function of mass media and not a theory (McCombs & Shaw, 1972).
Media Tenor researchers, together with Prof. Donald Shaw and Maxwell McCombs, are conducting a study 40 years after the 'Chapel Hill Study - Replication in a new media environment' in order to present developments in Agenda Setting Research and the rising importance of the theory in this century of media power.
Media Tenor compares the relationship between Reality and the Media's selection of Reality and the influence of these on Public perception. Its applied Agenda Setting research has proven that media shapes peoples' minds, especially those with no direct connection to newsworthy events. Consequently, topics not discussed in the media have proven to be irrelevant or less relevant to the public.
Agenda Setting: The relationship between the salience of a story and the extent to which people think that this story is important. Further research shows that people tend to attribute importance according to media exposure. Examples of Agenda Setting Effects
Agenda Cutting: As the press is selective when reporting the news, most of reality is not covered in the media and as a result, people do not regard such stories as important or even realize they exist, especially when they have no direct contact with the event or story in question. This effect is called Agenda Cutting. One example of this effect can be seen in reporting on diseases like Malaria or AIDS.
Examples of Agenda Cutting Effects
Agenda Surfing: The media tends to follow trends and thus “surfs” on the wave of topics originally mentioned in the opinion-leading media. Tracking all of the articles in opinion-media thus enables prediction of the stories that are going to be covered by the media in general in the near future, as well as prediction of the stories that are dying out. The Agenda Surfing effect can help you to place the right stories in the right media at the right time. Examples of Agenda Surfing Effects
Most of the Agenda Setting Studies of the past suffered as the result of their inability to access 100 percent of the news flow, and as a consequence of this shortcoming, their results showed corresponding weaknesses. Only by incorporating the ICA=CH Model into the Agenda Setting Theory does this seem to be possible - at least, this has been the result arrived at in all seven International Agenda Setting Conferences since 1999.
It is important to be aware of the problem that the relationship between media reporting and public opinion may also be affected by factors other than the opinion-leading media.