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Challenges of Agenda Setting in Public Affairs, Book Review Example

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Book Review

Case Study – Agenda setting theory applies to the way in which the media can manipulate news or information in order to sway the opinion of the public. It is the comparison of salience in the news and the increased frequency of coverage that influences the degree of influence on the public.  An example being the NorthWestern Innocence projects within the Chicago police department.  It was implied by the media that the police commander and his subordinates had been responsible  for the maltreatment and torture of prisoners in order to obtain confessions.  This forced George Ryan, the Governor, to re-examine his position on the death penalty and before leaving office he offered clemency to 167 prisoners on death row. The wake of the news from the police brutality and the extensive continued media coverage brought national attention to the subject of ‘innocence in the law’  (Baumgartner, F.R. 2008)

Influencing the Public Agenda – There is a strong argument that supports the cognitive accessibility function of agenda setting.  This is to say that the more news is repeated the greater the retention is in the public’s mind.  This can be used with great effect in order to build a story and increase the level of drama.  The uprising in Syria being a marked example. It starts off by explaining the concept of a civil insurrection against the state, this then builds to illustrate the horrors of war from a tyrannical state, this in turn paves the way for describing a civil war and ultimately how this escalates beyond the borders of Syria.  The drama is increased by building upon the severity and expansion of the war.  Although news coverage does this, it is the almost spontaneous power of media TV that provides a graphic illustration of the news and brings this directly into your home.

Challenges to overcome – Challenges for the public are essentially threefold (i) the ability to get factual and accurate information in order to have an informed opinion (ii) the ability to maintain a neutral stance examining all sides of an issue without being unduly impacted by news that has been skewed to represent a political viewpoint (iii)  To provide intelligent feedback that is based upon accurate and informed news and as such this means the public require a more formal understanding of the subject matter under review. (Bohnen, J.2011)

Agenda setting in theory and practice – The essence of establishing agenda in public affairs can be defined in the following 5 steps:

  1. The checking of policies – in terms of demand, need and challenges imposed
  2. Political branding – examining the guiding principles of communication
  3. Political environmental analysis – the actual monitoring of regulatory events
  4. Communication Strategy – the actual tools that are used to formulate communications strategy
  5. Implementation – the aspect of campaigning (Bohnen, 2011)

An orchestrated model concept  – Agenda setting is a carefully orchestrated concept, as illustrated in Fig 1. It utilizes a range of different communication methods that are carefully orchestrated over a number of distinct components. It facilitates the conducting of ideas as opposed to the generation of ideas. The biggest challenge in agenda setting is to utilize all of the tools in an effective manner.  This means that a scan of both the political and stakeholder environment are essential.  As seen in the Syrian War example this can be very difficult, particularly when media coverage of events is limited.

Agenda Setting Model

Figure 1 Agenda Setting Model

References

Bohnen, D. J. (2011). Agenda Setting or how to influence the public agenda. Berlin, Germany: Bohnen Kaqllmorgen Public Affairs.

Frank R. Baumgartner, S. L. (2008). The Decline of the Death Penalty and the Discovery of Innocence. In S. L. Frank R. Baumgartner, The Decline of the Death Penalty and the Discovery of Innocence (p. 64). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

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