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Power of Media


After reading up on agenda setting I was first surprised to find out what kind of influence the media had over what we thought about, and how we thought about it. In the early 70s Max McCombs and Donald Shaw interviewed 100 undecided voters and asked them what the most important issues were to them. They then took the top five and found an almost exact match to the types of stories that were being covered the most often. 

After I thought about this for a minute I was not surprised anymore. Many of the issues people are concerned about are not effecting them in their daily lives and may not naturally know about them. But the knowledge of them by the media and the way the media presents them to gain interest can leave a lasting impression. For example, my roommate used to work at a major home building company here in Calgary. By him personally talking to the owner he gathered that the major home building figureheads were fighting the city on many issues concerning its future, including the city wanting to build up as opposed to building out, and the city wanting more energy efficient homes etc. So in short (and remember this is heresy) the city wants to become more energy efficient, and the homebuilders do not because of lost revenue. Now if this became a huge issue within the media I would suspect it would have a growing interest to the city’s residence, but if light is not shed on this then people will either not know about it, or not consider it a big deal. 

Let’s say the media does talk about this issue. Again, they have the power to influence. They could imply homebuilders are wrong in stifling a greener more efficient city, or maybe the city is wrong in pushing housing costs up with more expensive building cost. If they decide to focus on one or the other, the average person who has no other influences on the subject would naturally take that position. Media plays a huge role in the perception of people, and it’s a scary thought if the intentions are more than just the explanation of the data.

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