Saturday, April 9, 2011

Agenda-Setting. Yawn.

My academic field loves agenda-setting.  I've never understood why.

It's the perfect we-dare-research-the-obvious example, is agenda-setting, the notion that as the news covers a topic more and more, it moves higher and higher in the public mind as what's important.  It's not really a theory, though we often dress it up as such and take it to dances and pretend that everyone else in the room doesn't realize she's really some tart from the wrong side of the tracks.  It's really more of an approach, or a paradigm, or some other fill-in-the-blank academic descriptor for stuff that doesn't really qualify as a theory.

Why am I venting about a mediocre research paradigm I don't really like?  In part because I've got to discuss it Monday in my reporting class, in part because I'm in a mood to vent.  It's my blog.  So cope.

There are more interesting ways to examine many of the same questions that agenda-setting tries poorly to do.  Priming, for example, boasts a stronger theoretical foundation.  Framing too. But if you do a Google Scholar search for "agenda setting" you get 75,300 hits.  Framing and priming get more hits, but they can mean so many more things ("framing theory," for example, snags only 2,370 hits).  So agenda-setting is fairly popular.  And I've never really understood why.

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