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Influence of media in “agenda setting” topic of lecture

Max McCombsMaxwell McCombs, internationally recognized for his research on the agenda-setting role of the news media, will speak on “Shaping the Foundations of Public Opinion,” on Tuesday, Sept. 24, at 5:30 p.m., in 201 Riley Hall at Linfield College.

McCombs, along with colleague Donald Shaw, coined the term “agenda setting” in a 1968 study to describe the role of the news media in shaping what the public views as important. In his lecture, McCombs will trace the evolution of agenda-setting theory and research over the past 45 years. Since his groundbreaking research, published in “Public Opinion Quarterly” in 1972, more than 500 studies of agenda setting have been conducted worldwide, including many by McCombs himself.

Maxwell McCombs has been instrumental in the growth of the field of mass communication scholarship, both as a scholar and mentor, and has been called “a living legend” by his peers. In 1996, the American Political Science Association recognized McCombs and Shaw with the Murray Edelman Distinguished Career Award, honoring a lifetime of contributions to the study of political communication. In 2011, the World Association for Public Opinion Research recognized McCombs and Shaw with the Helen Dinerman Award for career contributions to innovative research and research methodology.

McCombs, the author of numerous books and countless journal articles, published “Setting the Agenda: The Mass Media and Public Opinion” in 2004. The book organizes the vast literature on agenda setting into five ongoing phases of research that explain the central role of the mass media in the formation of public opinion. The book has been translated into seven languages, and an updated, second edition is due out in March 2014.

McCombs retired from the faculty of the School of Journalism at the University of Texas at Austin in 2011 as the Jesse H. Jones Centennial Chair in Communication. He continues to conduct mass-communication research, often collaborating with other scholars around the world. Prior to joining the University of Texas faculty in 1985, he was the John Ben Snow Professor of Research at Syracuse University. He has also served on the faculties of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and UCLA and worked as a reporter at the New Orleans Times-Picayune. He has been a visiting professor at the University of Navarra in Spain, the University of Vienna and two universities in Santiago, Chile.

McCombs has served in many leadership roles in the fields of journalism and public-opinion research, including president of the World Association for Public Opinion Research and 10 years as director of the News Research Center of the American Newspaper Publishers Association.

McCombs holds a master’s degree and Ph.D. from Stanford University and a bachelor’s degree from Tulane University in New Orleans.

“It will be a tremendous honor to welcome Dr. McCombs to Linfield,” said Lisa Weidman, assistant professor in the department of mass communication at the college. “He is arguably the most influential scholar in the field of mass communications. He co-founded one of the enduring and relevant theories in our field, and he has mentored dozens—if not hundreds—of other productive scholars.”

In his public talk, McCombs will trace the evolution of agenda-setting research and theory development over the past 45 years, from the first study in 1968 through current applications of the theory, including three levels of agenda setting, the psychology of agenda setting, consequences of agenda setting on attitudes, opinions and behavior, and sources of the media agenda.

The lecture is free and open to the public. This event is sponsored by the Linfield College departments of Mass Communication, Political Science, and Theatre and Communication Arts and the Office of Academic Affairs. For more information, contact Lisa Weidman at 503-883-2219, lweidma@linfield.edu.