I have tried to demonstrate the intertwined levels of analysis which can contribute towards theorising the relationship between the media and social policy. It is not sufficient simply to focus on media coverage. It is important to consider the motives of source organisations who seek out media publicity. It is also unhelpful to dismiss the media as 'interfering' or 'sensationalist' or to blame the press for 'media hype'. Instead, it is necessary to recognise their role as a forum for public debate. At the same time, however, it is vital never to accept the terms of that debate as cast in stone and always to question what is left out of the policy agenda as well as what is addressed. In this way one can combine detailed analysis of crisis coverage with critical reflection on the underlying assumptions which frame public discourse and limit visions for social policy.