Mass media implies a complex process of communication concerning society as a whole that emerged from the rapid societal changes and technological advancements. The relevance of mass communication indicates that it is regarded as the “primary means of control and mobilization of the many” (McQuail 3). It has the power to shape the mass identity of society and provoke mass behavior in the context of politics, beliefs, and consumption. However, to date, there is an evident abundance of online media that influences the traditional agenda-setting process and the theoretical framework whereby it occurs. The agenda-setting theory indicates the powerful influence that media has on society and is defined as endemic to democracy. Therefore, the increased prevalence of social media enhanced the dissemination of partisan media exposure that promotes misperceptions and false beliefs, which comply with the ideology of the specific news outlet.
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Reassessment of Agenda-Setting within New Media Environment
The information exchange transmitted through blogs, partisan information channels, political websites, and social media currently affects critical media outlets. Considering the bidirectional linkage between traditional mass media and agendas in blogging, it is crucial to analyze the connection between mainstream news outlets and primary political blogs. Mass communication can be received in the form of nationwide broadcast political speeches, crime stories in online newspapers, and popular new novels. Although, this paper examines the development and changes of traditional agenda-setting caused by the fast increase of social media and its severe outcomes, such as partisan news coverage. Social media has a direct effect on the agenda-building process reached online, or along with the mainstream media. Online intermedia agenda-setting has a multifaceted nature caused by the variety of online posts and blogs, which attracted the national media. As a result, the increased use of alternative media agencies minimized the impact of the traditional news media’s agenda-setting.
To begin with, the media highlights a number of issues and, thus, has the capacity to shape the audience’s agenda and prioritize issues. Considering the full range of online sources, there is now access to an increased number of media outlets. As a result, the media has a variety of options to enhance its impact, including agenda-setting, because more media pursue its target audience. From another point of view, the progressing media environment becomes more multifaceted by introducing more agendas and minimizing the potential impact of conventional media. As such, there is a close interrelation between the traditional and online media, since and begin the first one commonly uses the online platforms to broaden the scope of their news and issues. Based on several studies, social media and mass media agendas have a multidirectional linkage, however, the impact of social media platforms proves to be more influential in terms of emerging media settings.
Despite the fact that mainstream mass communication maintains its predominant agenda-setting power, it is not a single determining factor of the informational flow anymore. The political blogs, partisan and online media outlets, as well as social media, took the leading role in the current media environment and now shape the mainstream media agendas. Furthermore, the modern digital media environment promotes an increased selective approach and audience segmentation, which jeopardizes the traditional agenda-setting authority of the mass media. Taking into account that people might easily adjust their individual media to fit their needs and priorities, the effect of the traditional agenda-setting is more likely to disappear in the near future.
The Phenomenon of Partisan Media Coverage
It is generally considered that partisan media outlets build stories whereby they advance specific political platforms. The conventional partisan media involves cable news and talk radio. However, the emergence of the Internet promoted the expansion of new forms of partisan media, including “partisan websites and blogs such as Drudge Report and Daily Kos” (Vargo, Guo & Amazeen 2031). As a result, the prevalence of social media platforms in everyday life led to the exclusive popularity of partisan news coverage. Although, such a changing phenomenon within a current media environment results in severe outcomes for the mass media audience. The widespread use of social media networks contributes to the distribution of misinformation through automated, anonymous accounts focused on the audience that is already engaged in a discussion on a particular topic.
Several studies concluded that there is an inherent connection between fake news and partisan media coverage, but they should be regarded as separate issues. Vargo et al. state that the fake news websites’ agenda is supposed to forecast the network issue agenda of partisan news compared to other types of media. In addition, partisan media are expected to shape news in a manner to advance particular political agendas and, thus, are more likely to involve statements, which are based on verified facts that could be misleading. Fake news as well forecasted the issue agenda of partisan news coverage in a single direction concerning “infrastructure, disaster, border issues, domestic politics, health care, and public order” (Vargo et al. 2033). Based on the three-year research, the partisan media predominantly referred to the fake news outlets of border problems, international connections, and religion. For this reason, partisan media are recognized mainly for the contradictory positions on these topics.
The Relationship between Social Media and Partisan News
The main argument of this paper is based on the assumption that social media has an adverse impact on news’ dissemination, particularly partisan news coverage. Social media is a critical platform that enables expressing political opinions, discussions, sharing information, and news, as well as exploring information and ideas posted by other users. In general, the issue of partisan news enhanced by the emergence of social media is regarded in terms of political campaigns. Following the ideas of Hasell and Weeks, the informational exchange within social media became an integral part of the “political expression and engagement” (656). However, the population is highly dependent on social media platforms in order to receive news and information about politics. Hence, this research argues against the uncontrolled use of social media platforms for massive misinformation of its users caused by partisan media coverage. Within a broad range of online news media outlets, partisan news coverage played a particularly significant role in the American political arena. For instance, the beginning of the 2000s is associated with an outbreak of news blogs and websites concerning the political sphere.
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Such information channels typically have partisan nature and commonly express partisan political perspectives. The previous agenda-setting research demonstrated contradictory results regarding the correlation between partisan media and traditional media agendas. Vargo and Guo discussed several findings based on the study conducted during the 2004 presidential campaign in the United States. The study implied the comparison of media exposure in eight partisan blogs and national news media, such as “NYT, CNN, and Time Magazine” (Vargo and Guo 1035). The results displayed that the blog issue agenda majorly adhered to the agenda of the mainstream media. Furthermore, the results concluded that the issue salience was transmitted from the mainstream media, such as network television broadcasts, to political campaign-sponsored blogs. Compared to the reverse relationship, the agenda of The New York Times and Post, as well as other conventional information sources, is expected to establish the issue agenda of partisan online media outlets.
The Issue of Political Polarization
The emergence of social media contributed to the challenges concerning increased selective exposure to information and political polarization. A significant number of Americans use social media on a daily basis and, thus, a rapidly growing part of them perceive social media as the main source of news. However, online users are exposed to information and news of vague accuracy, including partisan blogs and websites. The vast range of social media platforms, including Facebook, Reddit, and Twitter, became the environment of fierce political argument. The issue of polarization is undoubtedly revealed on social media, where it has a tangible impact. Ciampaglia and Menczer suggest that content with low credibility spreads fast and easily, which implies that “people and the algorithms behind social media platforms are vulnerable to manipulation” (par. 2). Based on the framework of partisan communication networks, social media is highly effective at spreading information when it is closely linked and separated from other parts of society. The online sources enhance moral and emotional messages by arranging its users into digital communities based on tribal conflicts.
The Solution to the Adverse Effect of Social Media
By analyzing the effect that social media has on the enhanced partisan news exposure, one may conclude that it is crucial to rethink the structure of interactions between groups on the online platforms. Social media policies should reconsider the online polarization and improve the regulation of political targeting of advertisements on their platforms. In addition, every single individual is responsible for the efficient and thoughtful use of social networks and is able to make it a less polarized environment. Partisan media has a strong persuasive influence on the political views of oneself and can shape the overall public opinion. A single impact of partisan news coverage can change the perceptions and beliefs of the moderately nonpolitical user. However, it is important to realize that people respond in a different manner, which is based on their personal preferences.
The expansion of the new media environment initiated definitional issues that led to the emergence of more transparent borders between mass, interpersonal, and mediated communication, and demanded the accuracy of conceptual denotations. Nowadays, developing blogs and social media modify media application patterns and reconstruct their impacts. Partisan media exposure is proved to be particularly efficient within individuals who are inclined to avoid consuming news. As such, the wide range of options might undermine the persuasive and polarizing implications of partisan media for those who follow the ongoing political situation. Social media is indeed a vital source of polarization because it transfers a great amount of information. Although, the information that argues against the consumers’ philosophy might better clarify the dynamics of mass media power.
Ciampaglia, Giovanni, and Filippo Menczer. “Misinformation and Biases Infect Social Media, Both Intentionally and Accidentally.” The Conversation, 2018. Web.
Hasell, Ariel, and Brian E. Weeks. “Partisan Provocation: The Role of Partisan News Use and Emotional Responses in Political Information Sharing in Social Media.” Human Communication Research, vol. 42, no. 4, 2016, pp. 641–661.
McQuail, Denis. “Mass Communication.” The International Encyclopedia of Political Communication, 2016, pp. 1–12.
Vargo, Chris and Guo, Lei “Networks, Big Data, and Intermedia Agenda Setting: An Analysis of Traditional, Partisan, and Emerging Online U.S. News.” Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly, vol. 94, no. 4, 2016, pp. 1031–1055.
Vargo, Chris, et al. “The Agenda-Setting Power of Fake News: A Big Data Analysis of the Online Media Landscape from 2014 to 2016.” New Media & Society, vol. 20, no. 5, 2017, pp. 2028–2049.