Blog 4 – Media Effects
The most compelling theory to me is the media effects theory discussed in chapter 7. As individual citizens and as a society, we are reliant on the media to give us information about what is happening in the world around us. This goes as far as Niklas Luhmann once said “What we know about the world, we know from the media.” Since media plays such an important role in our lives, the question arose in how far we – our thoughts, our ideas, our opinions – are influenced by the images and messages we are exposed to through newspapers, television, radio, film, music, etc.
As most people accept the idea that media can influence people, the degree of that influence as well as who is impacted when how and why have been the subject of great discussion among scholars and researchers for many years. The answers that have emerged over the years range from a vision of all-powerful media with simple models emphasizing direct media influence and a passive audience (Hypodermic or Silver Bullet model) to more sophisticated analyses highlighting the interaction of media and an active audience (Minimal Effects Model and Agenda Setting)(p. 231). As the early models left out the “active agency of the reader of the media messages” and “ignored the pre-existing ideas and orientation of the reader”, later models took into account the “ability of the reader to select, screen and judge media information.”
The model I would support, based on my own experiences and observations, is the agenda setting model, which is the ability of the media to direct people’s attention towards certain issues. This means the media may not affect what people think, but may affect what they think about, through the choice of which topics to cover and what to emphasize. What we know about the world is largely based on what the media decide to tell us. More specifically, the result of this mediated view of the world is that the priorities of the media strongly influence the priorities of the public. Elements prominent on the media agenda become prominent in the public mind. Issues that are ignored by the media will most likely not make it into the public discourse. However, as mentioned above, what people think about an issue, their thoughts and opinions, depend on many more factors than just the media message itself.