ERIC Number: ED284233
Record Type: RIE
Publication Date: 1987-Aug
Reference Count: 0
The National Council of Churches' Alleged Leftist Bias: To What Degree Did Two Major Media Set the Agenda for Debate on the Issue?
Gentry, Richard H.
In January 1983, the American public read or saw hard-hitting allegations of leftist bias by the National Council of Churches (NCC) in the largest circulation magazine, "Reader's Digest," and on the top-rated television program, "60 Minutes." A study examined the extent to which the media set the agenda for debate on this issue. It was hypothesized (1) that the twin attacks on the NCC would be the catalyst for a surge of treatment of the issue in religious periodicals and general circulation media; (2) that given the explosive nature of allegations of Marxist bias, especially applied to a religious body, the allegations themselves would draw more comment from religious media than would the merits of the substantive issue raised; and (3) that editorial reactions in religious periodicals would focus on the "60 Minutes" segment more than on the "Reader's Digest" article. A wide range of print media was chosen for sampling for relevant content from the period of January 1981 through January 1985--two years before and after the date of the attacks. Hypothesis one was supported, while hypothesis two was supported only in the case of interdenominational religious journals. Hypothesis three was not supported quantitatively, but a more significant pattern emerged in the qualitative dimension, as "60 Minutes" appeared to provoke much more commentary than did "Reader's Digest." Results indicated that no firm conclusions can be drawn as to mass media agenda-setting in this case. Findings suggest, however, that using mass media to dramatize an issue carries with it destructive side effects. (Tables of data are included, and 47 footnotes are appended.) (NKA)
Publication Type: Reports - Research; Speeches/Meeting Papers
Education Level: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers: Agenda Setting; Media Bias; National Council of Churches; Readers Digest; 60 Minutes (Title)
Note: Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (70th, San Antonio, TX, August 1-4, 1987).