6 Theories of How Journalism Affects Society

April 9, 2010 by: Shari

from The Mind of a Journalist by Jim Willis

Journalists are too busy doing their jobs to spend much time thinking about how their craft affects society; however, over the years, media researchers have described six academic concepts:

1. The Magic Bullet Theory: The mass media in the 1940s and 1950s were perceived as a powerful influence on behavior change.  This is no longer true.

2. The Limited Effects Theory: The public is viewed as independent and intelligent, fully capable of making up its own mind in discerning truth from falsehood — as well as attempts at manipulation — in media portrayals.

3. The Two-Step Flow Theory: The media actually influences opinion leaders, who in turn pass along information and viewpoints.

4. The Spiral of Silence Theory: If people think they are in the minority, they will keep their opinions to themselves. Therefore it is not always easy to understand how people are really influenced since they will keep quiet if they do not think they are in the majority.

5. Agenda-Setting Theory: Editors and producers decide which issues and people they will cover, so that readers and viewers focus on those issues as well.

6. Third-Person Effect Theory: People say that the media affects others far more than they are affected. Thus they do not believe they are vulnerable to media influence.

What will the future hold for journalists as this job title is being expanded to include bloggers and other online content providers? Who is influencing whom?


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