Joan Didion’s article “Insider Baseball” exposes political campaigns as thinly disguised PR stunts, leading the media around the country with stories of baseball on tarmacs. As we discussed in class, there is, to a certain degree, an understanding among journalists that this is the information that becomes relevant and newsworthy if they are to cover an election. The politicians, in a sense, become the agenda setters for those who are supposed to be setting the agenda for the public. Has the campaign assumed the role of deciding what is important for voters to see?
Looking at Maxwell McComb and Donald Shaw’s work in “The Evolution of Agenda Setting: Twenty-Five Years in the Marketplace of Ideas,” they expand on their idea that the media will not tell you what to think, but rather what to think about. The conclusion posits that as the research on agenda setting has evolved over the first 25 years since it was proposed to meaning that the media framing has not only told people what to think about, but also what to think and how to think about it.
In this way it seems that the campaigns mentioned in Didion’s piece have taken on the role of agenda setters. The campaigns position stories for a press corps whose only job is to report their every move, and the corps has no alternative but to cover it all. McComb and Shaw call the “key agenda-setting role of the media…the promotion of social consensus on what the agenda is,” and with the positioning of the media under the campaign’s influence, the media loses the ability to promote a social consensus because the campaign decides what the agenda is.
Though this has an unethical sound to it, I think that the advent of independent news sources and the online platform has allowed other interpreters of the news to keep a balance of power. As more platforms have emerged and people not on the campaign trail have used credible news sources to contribute to public thought, they are able to promote more of McComb and Shaw’s “social consensus”, thus partially taking the media out from underneath the campaign’s influence to better amplify what is important to the people. In the same way, social media has allowed people to share and promote the issues and stories that are the most important to them, and in that way, not letting the campaigns have the only say in what the public hears.
The evolution of information and of campaigning has provided the people and the media with more autonomy in terms of the spread of information, and in this way, they can start to change the dynamics of the insider baseball.
McCombs, M., Shaw, D. (1993, January 1). The Evolution of Agenda-Setting Research: Twenty-Five Years in the Marketplace of Ideas. Retrieved March 9, 2015, from http://www4.ncsu.edu/~amgutsch/MccombsShawnew.pdf
Insider Baseball by Joan Didion. (1988, January 1). Retrieved March 9, 2015, from http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/1988/oct/27/insider-baseball/