The impact of editorial content on the political agenda in Germany: Theoretical assumptions and open questions regarding a neglected subject in mass communication research
This paper takes the perspective of media as autonomous actors in the political process. In editorials media legitimately try to influence the agendas and decisions of the political system not only by explicitly expressing their opinions on issues and political actors, but also by assigning relevance to certain issues or subissues and framing and interpreting political events according to their editorial stance. It may be assumed that the impact of editorials on the political system depends on the degree of issue focusing and opinion consonance: If different newspapers comment on the same issues and express similar opinions, considerable pressure is put on the political system. Our theoretical considerations of the role of “media opinion” in the political process and a review of the relevant agenda-building literature indicate a research gap regarding the impact of editorials on the political agenda. The empirical project outlined in this paper intends to help closing this gap. Editorial content of the leading German newspapers between 1993 and 1998 will be related to data on statements and decisions of the political system in order to investigate under what circumstances media consonance is achieved and how the political system reacts to it.
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