Presidential Rhetoric and News Rhetoric

Presidential Rhetoric and News Rhetoric

Ying Roselyn Du (Hong Kong Baptist University, Hong Kong)
Copyright: © 2014 |Pages: 13
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-5003-9.ch015
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Abstract

This study examines the role of U.S. presidents as a news source in the media agenda shaping process. DICTION text-analysis software was used to analyze transcripts of U.S. presidents’ state of the union addresses and related news coverage from 1981 to 2007. DICTION software calculated scores for five major dimensions of content in the addresses and related news stories. Results revealed that the addresses and related news coverage contained dissimilar rhetoric, suggesting that, overall, the presidents had little influence on independent media outlets in that regard.
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Background

Who Sets the Media’s Agenda?

As evidence accumulated about the agenda-setting influence of the mass media on the public, scholars in the early 1980s began to determine who set the media’s agenda. To distinguish the first phase (media agenda as effect) of the agenda-setting process from the second phase (media agenda as cause), some scholars have called it “building the media’s agenda” or “shaping the media’s agenda” (Lang & Lang, 1983; McCombs, 2004). Agenda building, or agenda shaping, is concerned with influences on the media agenda.

McCombs (2004) has used an “onion” metaphor to illustrate who might set the media’s agenda (Figure 1). At the core of the onion is the media agenda; the concentric layers of the onion represent the numerous influences at play in the shaping of the agenda. There are three fundamental layers: The layer immediately surrounding the core (i.e., news norms, such as social norms and traditions of journalism); the intermediate layer representing other news media, such as the interactions and influences of the various mass media on each other; and the outer layer representing news sources, such as the president of the U.S., routine public relations activities, and political campaigns. This study examines the “news sources” layer.

Figure 1.

A metaphorical onion: Who sets the media’s agenda?

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