Pubic Administration

The role of the media in agenda setting
This paper attempts to explain the theory of agenda setting and the role of the media in agenda setting.   It also outlines the stages of how a public issue develops into a public problem, then systemic agenda and then institutional agenda/governmental agenda.   The paper will focus on sanctions, water problems and indeginisation policy in Zimbabwe in Harare and the role of the public and independent media in agenda setting and agenda dissipation.

According to the Wikipedia free encyclopedia “agenda setting theory is the theory that the news media have a large influence on audiences by their choice of what stories to consider newsworthy and how much prominence and space given them.   Agenda setting theory’s main postulate is salience transfer”.   Salience transfer is the ability of the news media to transfer issues of importance from their news media agenda to public agenda.   Through their day-to-day selection and display of the news, editors and news directors focus our attention and influence our perceptions of what are the most important issues of the day.   That ability to influence the salience of topics on the public agenda is agenda setting role of the news media.

The Agenda setting theory was introduced by Maxwell McCombs and Donald Shaw in 1972, after their study of the role of the media in the 1968 presidential campaign in Chapel Hill, North Carolina (Wikipedia).   In the study of McCombs and Shaw, the theory explains the correlation between the rate at which the media cover a story and the extent that people think that this story is important.   This correlation has been shown to occur repeatedly.

In agenda-setting, the media agenda is where issues discussed in the media such as newspaper, television and radios take centre stage.   According to Bernard C. Colen (1963) “the media does not tell us what to think, it tells us what to think about.”   The media’s role therefore is to cover stories in graphical detail....