Turn on your television, scroll through your Twitter timeline, or even go to your Facebook feed and you will see an array of news stories. These stories are filling up the screens of your tablets, phones, and computers. The medias influence is unparalleled in today’s society and its messages are put out across the world for the consumer.
Therefore, the information in the forefront of people’s minds is largely down to what the media decides to put out. A big story that is currently being publicized heavily by the media is Indiana’s religious freedom law. This story is stirring up a lot of discussion based on what the law could lead to in terms of discrimination towards the LGBT community who have become a much larger force over the last few years.
With equality being such a hot topic at the moment the media jumped on this and set the agenda to air this issue heavily. Agenda setting is the technique that the media uses to focus the publics attention on a topic or event. Julia T Wood explains in her text Gendered Lives that the media uses agenda setting not to tell us what to think, but rather what to think about.
Indiana’s religious freedom law provides some great examples of the agenda setting technique being put in place by the media, in this case through news outlets. One way in which this has been executed can be found in an interview (below) with Indiana Gov. Mike Pence.
The interview is quite extensive and I am not picking sides on the topic but at the 4.12 mark, Pence condemns the medias role in reframing the intentions of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). For example, Pence details that the media has made the law seem to focus on one particular aspect, the potential LGBT discrimination, rather than the law as a whole, which also includes the right to express religion freely (hence its name). The media has done this in order to bring equal rights discrimination to the forefront of the publics minds.
Gov. Pence is facing the full force of the media on this issue and these media sources have ‘set the agenda’ for the public to think about the spread of discrimination in the United States and are using Indiana’s stance on the RFRA as a means to do so.
Despite the fact that Indiana and their support of the RFRA has caused enormous controversy over the last week or so it is important to understand the underlying topic here, of gender and gender equality. How gender and sexual orientation are being portrayed and supported in the media is a sign of the changing times that we must all be a part of or at least be educated on in order to create equal rights for every member of society.