Agenda-Setting Theory in the U.S. Media: A Comparative Analysis of Terrorist Attacks in France and Nigeria
This paper examines six major terrorist attacks that occurred in France and Nigeria between 2011 and 2016. The sources used were the news websites of The New York Times, The Washington Post, and USA Today. Agenda-Setting Theory postulates that the media has the ability to determine the salience of topics in the public domain. “Salience” is the perceived importance of issues or subjects in the eyes of the public. An important conclusion of this analysis is that the U.S. media has been over-reporting terrorist events in France, while underreporting terrorist events in Nigeria. The results of this paper substantiate previous studies that found that U.S. news reports on terrorist attacks in the West gain more widespread media coverage and attention. Evidence of over-reporting and under-reporting of these terrorist incidents attests to the power of Agenda-Setting Theory in the U.S. media because, ultimately, this shapes public perception of the threat that international terrorism poses to innocent people in the West.
Jonathan Matusitz and David Ochoa