The Agenda-Setting Role of Mass Communication
Maxwell McCombs Tamara Bell
University of Texas at Austin
Too many events occur within a given day for the average American to personally attend to each one. News organizations, however, employ hundreds of people to observe those events and report what they see. Through the news media we learn which candidates are likely to win elections, which countries are likely to go to war, and which bills are likely to be approved by Congress. The media's daily reports alert us to the latest events and changes in the larger world beyond our reach. Consequently, most of our world is a second-hand reality created by the news organizations. There is no guarantee, however, that this reality accurately depicts our world.
The news media do not just passively transmit information, repeating verbatim the words of a public official or conveying exactly the incidents at an event. Nor do they select and reject the day's news in proportion to reality. Through their day-by-day selection and display of the news, editors and news directors focus attention and influence the public's perceptions of what are the most important issues of the day. Our attention is further focused--and our pictures of the world shaped and refined--by the way journalists frame their news stories.