I think the media’s agenda-setting works all too well on children (at least it did on me). Except it wasn’t news I was watching; it was the Saturday morning line-up. After all, as a child I had a very high need for orientation. For some inexplicable reason, anything that the TV displayed from 6 a.m. to noon on Saturday had high relevance to me (including the color bars from 6-7). And as a child, anything dealing with growing up, being an adult, or understanding the world around me touched a point of high uncertainty within my semi-hardened skull. As a result, Saturday morning TV had the power to tell me what to think about. I spent my play time acting out the characters from my favorite shows. I pleaded with my parents to provide me with whatever the commercials were peddling—sugar cereal, dolls with brushable hair, sports cars. I wasn’t picky. I dreamt Smurfs. I breathed Wonder Woman. I made wedding plans revolving around George of the Jungle. I thought about the things that the powers behind the television, based on their agenda, wanted me to think about. To be perfectly honest, I’m still a huge fan of Wonder Woman and dolls with comb-able hair.
I remember back in my freshman year of college when I was at Indiana University and a story about immigration was in the news. It was on the cover of every Time and Newsweek magazine and newspaper I saw. I was taking Political Science then and we spent full classes discussing it. At one point, an exasperated student raised her hand and asked if we could talk about something else. The teacher gave her a strange look and finally said, "I know you are sick of talking about it, but it's news and we must discuss it."
After reading this chapter I realized the power of the media in telling us what to think about and discuss. People were tired of thinking about it, but since it was in the news, the teacher insisted it must be important. She didn't tell us we had to agree or disagree with any of it, but we at least had to think about it and discuss it. I wondered why at the time because it didn't seem to be affecting my life in anyway. But I thought about it a lot at the time because it was in the news and I think about what's in the news regardless of whether or not it is directly affecting me. I was curious about the situation and I also had to learn more for my class. I had a high "need for orientation."