Media Research Methods
Denham, Bryan E., Journalism & Mass Communication Educator
* Gunter, Barrie. (2000). Media Research Methods. London: Sage Publications. 314 pp. Hardback, $78, Paperback, $25.95.
With an increasing number of communication theory and research methods texts appearing, educators now must consider foremost the uniqueness of a text before adopting it. What, in short, does the book contain that many others do not? In Media Research Methods, Barrie Gunter of the University of Sheffield covers acres of familiar ground, but his conceptual review of how scholars examine communication phenomena makes the book a nice supplement to standard methods texts. Gunter's book is written on an abstract level, and he succeeds at moving beyond basic description and looking closely at the strengths and weaknesses of research epistemologies, discussing the approaches scholars have taken to studying theories such as agenda setting, cultivation, and uses and gratifications. His text is well-referenced, and in general, he covers the most prominent studies that have been conducted in media research.
A future edition of the book might benefit, however, from a few studies not mentioned in the text. As an example, the discussion of agenda setting research is solid, but the author does not devote much attention to agenda building, which, as an extension of agenda setting, is abit more complex. While agenda setting theory suggests that media tell us not what to think, but what to think about, when the issues at hand do not otherwise obtrude into our lives, agenda building takes on a series of steps, looking at the relationships between media outlets, media consumers, and policymakers.
This expansion of agenda setting suggests, among other things, that press coverage of an issue picks up when famous individuals speak out. One might look to the case of Michael J. Fox speaking out on Parkinson's disease before Congress, Goldie Hawn appearing in Washington, D.C. and urging Congress not to expand trade with the Chinese, or Katie Couric agreeing to have a televised gastro-intestinal exam to heighten awareness of the cancer that killed her husband, legal analyst Jay Monahan. …