Sunday, February 8, 2009

Gatekeeping and Agenda-Setting

Posted on behalf of Nicholas Sardone:

Agenda setting is the idea that we are forced to think about certain things because of the media. Agenda setting states that the media doesn’t tell us what to think, but it tells us what to think about. The media controls many aspects of what we hear most about. This is especially true regarding politics and how we get news. Most news is about celebrities, this gets the most attention, why?

Why do we care so much, or do we really care at all? maybe we are just shown so much of this crap that we trick ourselves into caring. Why do they want us to care about it?

It is proven that media helps to shape each and every one of us, and for many of us it controls our entire life. For most of us in this class, as media studies majors, we rely heavily on the media. There are many forms of media, from newspapers to tv, to the internet. As each of these new forms of media were invented and introduced into society, questions about our high culture values were popping up and the idea that we were going to decline as a culture arose. In Baran and Davis' text, mainly chapter 3, they write that media has the “power to profoundly shape our perceptions of the social world and to manipulate our actions, often without our conscious awareness” (45). I would say that this is true. We see it every day.

Is it right that we care so much about the media? We do let our lives get run by these stories we read and things we see on the news. It seems wierd, but we don't think so anymore because it has become so natural for us to just beileve everything we hear and care so much about what famous people are doing, or what other people think. Like the other bloggers stated, about such issues as Michael Phelps and his marijuana incident and A-Rod and his new links to steroid use in baseball. These stories are about other people's personal lives mostly, but now they are public and it is all you can hear about.

The main title to the article is a picture of him hitting a bong with the title reading "What a dope." Personally i don't think it is a big deal, marijuana is not a big deal to me. He is an athlete, the most decorated olympic athlete, and a hero to the US. Because he smokes pot, doesnt change anything. Yes, people are throwing fits about this, but why do we care? Because we get bored and need something to worry about?

So what do you think about agenda-setting? Do you think that these stories warrant as much attention as they getting? Should we really care about things that don't mean anything really in the broad spectrum of the world and real issues.Jessica Simpson is fat, Michael Phelps is smoking grass, Brad Pitt changed his hair style... etc. There are real issues in the world, but alot of the time media outlets just want us to hear these ridiculous stories that don't impact anything.


  1. Agenda-setting is enormously apparent today in the politics, however I could not help but think of the media’s impact when it comes to news stories on tragic deaths and how they tell people “what to think about” (Baran & Davis, 279). For example, the deaths of Natalee Holloway and Laci Peterson, two beautiful young women, became colossal on a national level. The same can be said about the disappearances of Jonbenet Ramsey and Caylee Anthony, two angelic little girls. There have obviously been many other incidences such as these in the United States, however each of these stories became top national stories. There seems to be no other reason for the stories’ infamy than the media’s selective choice of which stories they cover. This is vastly comparable to the choices in broadcasted political stories, in which “Of all the issues that should or could have been aired and examined, only a few became dominant. Only a few were viewed by many Americans as the most important issues facing the United States” (Baran & Davis, 279). By the media airing stories on these specific cases, a great deal of interest, sometimes to a morbid degree, is generated.

    A lot of interest is also generated when celebrities encounter tragedy, such as the losses suffered by the families of John Travolta and Jennifer Hudson. In these types of cases however, it seems that the media covers these cases because of the public’s already vested interest in these celebrities, knowing that the public feels as though they actually know these celebrities and therefore care about their personal misfortune.

    It has been argued that the amount of airtime a specific murder or disappearance gets is directly proportionate to what that person looked like. The public seems to be more interested in stories that have to do with beautiful women, cute (typically female) children, and of course celebrities. It can be argued that many people within the general audience are simply naturally drawn to such stories, and therefore that “maybe the public sets the media’s agenda and then the media reinforce it” (Baran & Davis, 280). However, perhaps it is not the public that is demanding these sorts of stories. “The argument that the media are simply responding to their audiences” seems unlikely (Baran & Davis, 280). It seems instead that the media simply chooses to highly stories concerning beautiful people.

    One could perhaps argue that just because these types of stories happen to get more airtime, it does not mean that the public views them as more important. I would raise the point, however, that the publicity these stories have generated has led to vigils and search parties, for example. The time of media exposure these tragic stories elicit, lead to an intense amount of public interest and concern, which almost always benefits the victim(s).

    No one, the media included, can say that any single tragedy is more unfortunate than another, in my opinion. Why is it the media who decides that the premature death of a celebrity’s son deserves more attention than the death of anyone else’s son? Or that the murder of a young beauty queen or pregnant woman trumps the death of any other woman? According to Iyengar and Kinder, “Those problems that receive prominent attention on the national news become the problems the viewing public regards as the nation’s most important” (Baran & Davis, 280).

  2. Agenda- setting takes place every day of our lives, and although it is undoubtedly the media that puts the information out there as an option for us to turn to, ultimately it is the individual who chooses what he or she wants to tune into or soak in. I think it is a shame that now stories of “how much weight Jessica simpson has gained” is covered before a more ethical news story, and the “entertainment segment” of a news show has now just become intertwined with the actual news. Although the media surrounds us in our everyday lives, we still have the ability to decide what we want to care about and what we can just throw into a pile of useless information.
    In chapter 10, the Media System Dependency Theory is discussed and it is argued that “the more a person depends on having his or her needs met by media use, the more important will be the role that media play in the person’s life, and therefore the more influence those media will have on that person” (273 Baron & Davis). I think in today’s tech-savvy world, it is impossible not to have our needs met by the media because it has made itself a medium for most things. Stories such as Michal Phelps, Jessica Simpson or any other celebrity related crisis are now front-page cover stories. And the sad thing is that many people give into them to escape the drama or tragedies of their own life. There is an argument that these stories also just go to show that these celebrities are just like you and me, they have flaws, mess up, get caught, gain a few pounds every now and then – so why aren’t we making headlines everyday?
    In the same discussion of Media System Dependency Theory, it is stated that the media operates in a manner to meet given audience wants and needs (273 Baron & Davis). At one point in time, the media did focus more on environmental issues, politics, etc – but something clicked when they switched to Hollywood entertainment. And so as we tuned in/begged for more, more is exactly what they gave us.
    I think the question is, is it too late? Have we gone too far into the dark side where the focus can’t be brought back to the real issues? Or is it as simple as just turning the tv off when a poll comes up of who’s cuter, zac efron or nick jonas?

  3. Since its creation, the media has offered an escape for people from their everyday, sometimes mundane lives. In addition, agenda-setting has been around since the very first days of newspapers, the Penny Press (Baran & Davis, 279). According to Baran & Davis’ text, agenda-setting “clearly establishes that there is an important relationship between media reports and people’s ranking of public issues (280).” I can understand the author of this posts’ opinion on this argument; that there are better and more important things to talk about than Jessica Simpson’s weight fluctuation issue (even though I will admit, I am obsessed with celebrity gossip). I can also understand the other side of this argument as well, that people actually do want to listen to and hear celebrity gossip and other seemingly meaningless topics covered in everyday media. Sometimes, people want to escape from their everyday lives and just hear about something “fluffy,” something that will not personally affect their lives, such as the stock market. Instead, they would rather make fun of the fact that Michael Phelps may now lose millions of dollars in endorsements because he was stupid enough to get caught on film smoking a bong. While I hate to admit it, many times I put on E! news instead of the regular news because it is too overwhelming to hear about the bombings in the Middle East or how many people lost their jobs that day because of our failing economy. If that makes me ignorant, then so be it.
    Media, as a whole, is a very smart industry. The various outlets try to produce products which will be attractive to customers and patrons. If something is not working, then they stop what they are doing and revamp or abandon a project all together. If there was not a need for this type of news coverage, it would cease to exist. Baran and Davis make a very valid point on page 289 when they state that “like all media commodities, news must be attractively packaged, and a primary means of doing this involves dramatization.” Some people may continue to watch a news program if they hear that there are juicy details about some celebrity’s divorce on the same program. Celebrities sell much of the news in the present day, as sad as that may be to some. It is more entertaining to watch someone else’s disaster of a life than reflect on your own.
    I may be supporting this type of news because I love it so much. While many people may argue that it is annoying that celebrities make headlines, it is the norm now. We can fight it or we can do what my parents do, ignore it and turn to the next page in the newspaper for real news.

  4. I completely agree that the fact that celebrities personal lives being spread across the front page and the nightly news is absurd. They are still people, they still deserve to have personal lives, and honestly, I am not all that interested in what Jessica Simpson thinks about her body, if she's happy that's all that matters.
    The Baron and Davis text states that agenda-setting "clearly establishes that there is an important relationship between media reports and people’s ranking of public issues" (280). I find that to be interesting because yes, these people are basically opening their lives to the rest of the world, and for some reason, we look up to them, but still, they are people and they deserve privacy as much as I do.
    I'm not saying that what they are doing does not matter because a good amount of celebrities use their fame for good causes, but then things such as the Michael Phelps incident occurs and the world is looking at him like he is some kind of heathen. Michael Phelps is still in his 20s and aside from being the most decorated Olympic athlete, he is still, essentially, a kid.
    The fact that people are taking such offense to things that, not so shockingly, lots of 20somethings do is strange to me. Yes, I still listen to what my parents ask of me, I stay out of trouble and make sure that my studies are placed on the front burner. I'm alright with that, I would rather read a book then go on Perez Hilton (which I will admit I check sometimes), watch the local network news or look at gossip magazines. I do not find this type of news interesting and maybe I am different than most people in this, but I am alright with it.
    Going with what Nick said "There are real issues in the world, but alot of the time media outlets just want us to hear these ridiculous stories that don't impact anything". This is completely true and it is sad to think that this is what our country now views as important news then the latest headlines for the BBC are dealing with issues like the fires in Australia, what is going on in Gaza and a bombing in Sri Lanka.

  5. Agenda setting has become prevalent in today’s society because of the ever growing need to be informed. I think the easiest way to view agenda setting is through the dependency theory, found in the Baran & Davis text, in which the media fulfills needs that people have. As in many of the other blogs, the idea of the celebrity has changed greatly due to the way in which the media operates. More and more stories of celebrity gossip are making their way into mainstream media under the guise of being true news. Although these stories may recount current events, it is not factual news reports that will affect anyone’s life.
    A recent example of this that I noticed was the Alex Rodriguez steroid scandal.’s homepage is covered with stories, interviews, reactions, polls, and anything that will fit on the page about the A-Rod story. However, the MLB has stated that when A-Rod tested positive for steroid use, it was during a 2003 study in which no player could face penalty for testing positive. So then why do we throw such a frenzy when we find out about it? For one thing, A-Rod’s recent public divorce and the rumors surrounding him and Madonna have made him an even more known name. By branching out from media outlets only for baseball and into Paris Hilton territory, he has become a larger factor in pop culture. There were hundreds of players tested in the 2003 study, and A-Rod was not the only one to test positive. However, his is still the only name that I have heard mentioned. If a backup outfielder for the Padres tested positive no one would know or care. It is simply because A-Rod is one of the best known names in baseball that we have any concern for what he does off the field.
    Agenda setting can be seen as harmful to society because one source can control the messages that everyone receives. During the A-Rod scandal there were many important news stories including Obama’s economic plans and the Australian wildfires, but nearly every news outlet featured A-Rod. Although it may just be the media that I choose to view, I feel like we are getting a very narrow slice of what is truly happening in the world because the media is controlled by what stories will get them the most viewers, and therefore money. One of the earliest things I learned in journalism was that if it bleeds it leads, but I fail to see how a needle prick is worse than a wildfire killing hundreds.

  6. Response to blog 2
    Obviously we know that Agenda-Setting the idea that we are forced to think about certain things because of the media. Agenda setting states that the media doesn’t tell us what to think, but it tells us what to think about. This is principally true regarding politics, how we get news, and very obviously with celebrity gossip. Baron and Davis gave a great example of agenda-setting using a quote from Walter Lippmann, the inventor of the penny press. Walter Lippmann stated in Public Opinion (1922), that people respond better to pictures in their heads rather than dealing directly with their environment. Lippmann stated that, “For the real environment is altogether too big, too complex, and too fleeting for direct acquaintance. We are not equipped to deal with so much subtly, so much variety, so many permutations and combinations. And although we have to act in that environment, we have to reconstruct it on a simpler model before we can manage it.” (Lippmann, 1922, p. 16) The penny press was created, and started a foundation for the mass-production of news and media. People generally want to know what is going on in their world, the media lets them know. The media is absolutely necessary for people to know what is going on in the world around them, as Lippmann showed us, it is almost impossible for individuals to figure out what’s going on in the world, and they use the media as an information tool. Agenda-setting shows us that media has been so available for such a long time, that people have taken advantage of it. People have seen how important the media is, and how it captivates those around us, so they have studied it, and taken advantage of it. Instead of telling us what to think, the media tells us what to think about. The media now uses agenda-setting because that is what the news has become. There are so many people on earth, so many forms of media, so much news, so many disasters, so many crimes, so many celebrities, so many countries, that any various news company can present the news; society has changed it now to the point where media does not tell us what to think, but tells us what to think about. Instead of telling us about important news, media tells us how Jessica Simpson is getting fat, or that Michael Phelps smokes marijuana. Instead of bringing us news; important things about our endangered economy, or struggling education reforms, or worldly issues, or new health findings, we are getting news about celebrities’ personal lives. I think that agenda-setting is inevitable. I think agenda-setting exists because subconsciously, people want to hear about crap- celebrities’ personal lives, instead of important social issues. I believe it is inevitable because the media is so available to us, because there is so much going on in the world, as people, we know social issues exists, but to some, would rather hear about celebrities’ personal lives because we find it interesting, rather than just hearing news. I believe some people want to be told what to think about, because they do not want to do it on their own. I think because there is so much stuff going on in the world that people believe agenda-setting is the role of the media. I think that they have opinions, but find it easier to be told what to think about. I think people are so busy, so aware, so trusting of the media, that they will conform to agenda-setting of the media, and be fine with it. I think agenda-setting exists because many people want it to exist.