Friday, October 20, 2017

Agenda-setting and wishful thinking

If you've heard one thing about agenda-setting, it's the summary that McCombs and Shaw borrowed from Bernard Cohen's "The press and foreign policy": Media accounts aren't very effective at telling you what to think, but they're really good at telling you what to think about. Cohen's next line, though, is worth bearing in mind as well:

"It follows from this that the world looks different to different people, depending not only on their personal interests but also on the map that is drawn for them by the writers, editors and publishers of the papers they read."

Planet Fox might seem like a strange place from outside, then, with its eight methane-powered suns and its greisly fauna, but that's because you're not using the right map. To the natives, the day's most super-important top story makes perfect sense, particularly if you look at the inside headline or the html: melania-trump-cuts-bloated-first-lady-payroll-from-michelle-obama-days.html. Likewise, nothing too unusual about the redtop-style existential hed on the second story (also bigger on the inside: clinton-pitbull-media-attack-kelly-after-gold-star-general-defends-trump-condolence-call.html). 

We're slipping a bit farther from strict reality, though, in that the only outrage mentioned in the 666*-word story is directed toward Rep. Wilson, not "the media,"** and it comes from the president and the ineffable Sheriff Clarke. But Fox does (if obliquely) acknowledge that Gen. Kelly outright lied about Rep. Wilson during his appearance.

The fun one, I think, is the Anything But Russia story in the No. 3 position.*** Here, the homepage hed with the "infamous Clinton tarmac meeting" is most at odds with the inside hed ("Lynch meets with House investigators on Russia, ignores questions on Clinton") and the html version ("lynch-meets-with-house-investigators-amid-questions-on-russia-clinton"). Not to mention, sad to say, the story itself:

Former Attorney General Loretta Lynch met with members of the House Intelligence Committee on Friday as part of the probe looking into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

Lynch is one of several former Obama officials who have been called to Congress for closed-door questioning over the Russia accusations.

But sources**** close to the investigation told Fox News that questions over her infamous tarmac meeting with President Bill Clinton also may have been on the agenda. That June 27, 2016 meeting with Clinton on an airport tarmac in Phoenix raised questions about whether Lynch – or the Justice Department – could be impartial in the Hillary Clinton email investigation.

Apparently we're not even sure that the questions were on the agenda, let alone in the grill itself. So whence the "amid questions"?

Lynch ignored three questions from Fox News’ Catherine Herridge Friday morning on Capitol Hill, in reference to those issues.

Got it!

Anyway, the cluttery format that introduced last month has made the agenda-setting part harder to track. But it certainly hasn't dampened the fun with the headlines.

* Stuff just writes itself sometimes, doesn't it? This is the count I get with MS Word.

** Assuming that the "former Clinton spokesman" quoted in the text is the "Clinton pitbull," that means "the media" are represented by one dude at MSNBC. Just in case you're scoring along at home.
*** Just wondering here -- do you suppose there's some, oh, unifying demographic characteristic of the targets of Fox's derision in the afternoon's top three stories?
**** Pesky sources! 

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