Exploring the Media's Roles in Defining Reality: From Issue-Agenda Setting to Attribute-Agenda setting
As Lippmann (1922) pointed out more than 70 years ago, “we can see how indirectly we know the environment in which nevertheless we live” (p. 4). It is not only a matter of geographical distance. In a Great Society like ours, the social structure has grown tremendously in size and in complexity. The institutional activities as a whole are hardly visible to an average citizen. Therefore it is one of the principal functions of the media to mediate between “the world outside” and “the pictures in our heads.” The media provide information that is a major component of our “pictures”—Lippmann also termed this a pseudo environment. This function of the media has significant implications for politics: In a contemporary mass democracy, it is people’s cognitions and choices based on them that determine the main direction of a polity in the long run.