Agenda-setting as politics: A case study of the press-public-policy connection

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In the spirit of the postmodern movement, this paper mixes the genres of survey research, in-depth interviews, and textual analysis to comment on governance in the media age. Using these methods, the paper traces the movement of a particular issue, international child abductions, on the agendas of the press, the public, and policy elites. Ultimately, the agenda-history of this issue is found to be a case study in cultural constraints on mass-mediated political power. Results of the study reported in the paper suggest that media logic–the epistemology of the vivid instance and the dramatic case–contains within it the counterpoised tendencies toward both the imposition of meaning and the dissipation of meaning–that normalization can be frustrated by fragmentation–and that it is impossible to predict how these tendencies will “play out” in any particular situation. The paper concludes that politics is, then, a game played under the rules of postmodern media culture, a “game of truth effects” as Baudrillard maintains, but also a game of power that is still real enough to matter. Two tables of data are included and 30 references are attached. (RS)

Ettema, J., Protess, D., Leff, D., Miller, P., Doppelt, J. C., & Cook, F. (1991). Agenda-setting as politics: A case study of the press-public-policy connection. Communication, 12, 75-98.

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