Agenda setting in a culture of fear: The lasting effects of September 11 on American politics and journalism

Matthew D. Matsaganis, J. Gregory Payne

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


Agenda setting has been developed, expanded, and employed in numerous studies as an analytical tool that affords an understanding of not only how our political reality is formulated but also how "realities" can be manufactured. However, as the authors argue, by grafting agenda setting and media systems dependency theory - two different traditions in mass communication theory - it is possible to better account for changes in the agenda-setting process because of shifts in the power relationships between all actors involved, especially under conditions of increased threat; conditions similar to those the American public has lived in since the September 11 terrorist attacks. Illustrations from Campaign 2004 complement this analysis. The authors suggest that it is critical to understand the dynamics of the making of "mediated realities" so as to alert readers of the importance in furthering critical media literacy skills necessary for the public to distinguish between facades and facts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)379-392
Number of pages14
JournalAmerican Behavioral Scientist
Issue number3
StatePublished - Nov 2005
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Psychology
  • Cultural Studies
  • Education
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Social Sciences(all)


  • Agenda setting
  • Journalism
  • Media
  • Media systems dependency
  • Mediated reality
  • Politics
  • Terrorism


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