Jennings Bryant’s and Susan Thompson’s book „Fundamentals of Media Effects” describes agenda setting as a function that may not be successful to tell people what to think, but rather what to think about. It is strongly linked to the way how media has to sort out the information and decide which information will be covered in the news. Arguably those are the issues that will set the agenda for the public. Or does it happen the other way around?
I personally think that a lot of the things I think and talk about in my everyday life is set by the media. The topics with the biggest coverage will be the ones I will be talking about with my friends and family. However, it is not media that sets my opinion. Media in this case serves as a initiator of this conversation, as it has been widely covered, therefore it calls for a discussion. The biggest headlines and biggest stories are often the ones that are talked about the most. And in my opinion, these discussions are what form the opinions of individuals, not the news coverage.
However, this would somehow mean that news and articles with smaller coverage would not be discussed among groups that often. The lack of „in your face” coverage would result in less people informed about the topic, therefore less discussion. Would that mean that in this case lack of the two step flow interaction would result in media actually being able to tell people what to think? I think it is a scenario that exists, especially for people who are heavy news consumers. There is no time to discuss most of the ideas consumed through the media; therefore the news can often be the main source of information and opinion related to the topic.
Agenda setting is an interesting concept, with many real-life examples observed from our lives. However, for me the question who are actually the agenda setters remains unanswered. I often think it is the media, as it seems to be the obvious answer. But aren’t there theories that state that consumers follow messages matching their existing ideas? Don’t we only read the things we are interested in?