Signals in the fog : the media and government problem prioritization

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2010-05

Authors

Wolfe, Michelle Anne

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Abstract

Traditional scholarship on the media effects of government activity focuses on the transfer of salience. Salience and priorities are conceptually distinct, although they are often incorrectly used interchangeably. Whereas salience refers to issue attention, priority pertains to issue preferences or importance. This paper offers that media effects are better understood as signals comprised of issue salience and importance in an environment characterized by variation in uncertainty and ambiguity. Using newspaper stories and congressional hearings datasets, unique measures are developed that incorporate the uncertainty and ambiguity of the information environment. The relationship between media signals and government problem prioritization is then examined. This research is important in situating media signaling within the context of the larger issue agenda, and helps to illuminate linkages between the public and government agendas.

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