Who influences breaking news?

Abigail Sames
2 min readMar 1, 2021

In the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic, almost everything has switched to either remote or virtual, including the Golden Globe Awards. This Sunday night, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler kicked off the 78th Golden Globe Awards. The media coverage of the event is getting front-page treatment on both The Wall Street Journal and New York Times, while stories about the Iran Nuclear Deal take the backseat. Is this because the Golden Globes are more important to readers? Not necessarily. This coverage can be attributed to something called agenda setting.

Agenda setting is built around the assumption that the media shapes what kind of stories we see. In theory, the more attention an issue or story gets, the more likely we will consider that issue to be important. This theory was first introduced by Maxwell McCombs and Dr. Donald Shaw in 1972. It states that “the news plays an integral part in the shaping of political realities”. Agenda setting encompasses three factors: priming, issue obtrusiveness, and framing.

The coverage of the Golden Globe Awards is not the only time we’ve seen the agenda setting theory in play. Think of every time you’ve watched the nightly news on television. The broadcast begins with the stories that the media deems the most important, while the local stories or positive stories live at the end of the broadcast. This format is seen everywhere from CNN to Fox News. For example, take a look at the NBC nightly news broadcast from February 27.

As the broadcast begins you see the breaking news stories outlined. The first story is about the new Johnson and Johnson Covid-19 vaccine. This is the story that NBC considers to be the most important. As the broadcast comes to a close, we get one final story. This is a feel-good story showcasing a father learning to walk again. The entire setup from start to finish is an example of agenda setting.

The Golden Globe coverage, news broadcast format, and NBS news are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to agenda setting. Recently, bloggers, citizen journalists and independent media have been able to take away some of the control from the press. With the everchanging technical and social media advances, new research will need to be considered to keep up with agenda setting.

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Abigail Sames
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Graduate student at UF. Dog mom. Adventurer. Avid cruiser. Working to understand and raise awareness of how the world grapples with the effects of #Covid-19.