News media roles in bridging communities: consensus function of agenda-setting

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Date

2009-12

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Higgins, Vanessa de Macedo

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Abstract

Technological, political and economical developments have fostered the spread of transnational media since the latter part of the 20th century. Despite that, most studies of media effects are still nationally bound. This dissertation discusses some of the effects that both national and transnational news media can have on people’s thoughts and feelings. It explores the particular effect of consensus building as a consequence of second level agenda-setting. The main focus of this dissertation is how national and transnational news media can bring different demographic groups closer in their perceptions of major topics in the news. This dissertation analyzes consensus building effects through the European Union’s reaction to the attacks of September 11, 2001 in the United States. It analyzes how the use of national and transnational media brought EU demographic groups in closer agreement regarding the attributes of the terrorism issue and of the Muslim and Arab communities, as they related to the events of 9-11 and its aftermaths for the EU community. This study is based on a secondary data analysis of a survey conducted in the close aftermath of 9-11. It is an extensive replication of Shaw and Martin’s (1992) consensus model based on a cross-national analysis of 15 European Union nations and their patterns of national and transnational news media use among four demographic groups in relation to the substantive and affective dimensions of attribute agendas regarding the aftermath of 9-11. This study found evidence that national media bring the segments of society to closer agreement regarding the attributes of terrorism and the attributes of the Muslim and Arab communities. This was especially true for those indicating they used national television. Transnational media also have some potential for similar effects, though less than for national media. Borders still matter but it will be interesting in the future to see if the increasing availability of transnational media translates into increased influence as well.

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