Media as a Reflection of Society

In his landmark mass communication theory reader, noted media theorist Denis McQuail (2010) wrote that the mass media can often be thought of as a metaphorical mirror, reflecting myriad events in social and physical worlds. Such a metaphor seems at odds with notions of agenda setting and media effects by suggesting that media hold up a faithful reflection of the current societal mores, norms, and social structures rather than causing them to be as they are portrayed. Indeed, McQuail’s mirror as metaphor is not new; it was invoked during the 19th and 20th centuries to describe the way news and data about society were conveyed in newspapers—some of the earliest newspapers often used this metaphor in their publication mastheads—with references to newspapers such as the ...

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