10.4185/RLCS-2013-988en | ISSN 1138 - 5820 | RLCS # 68 | 2013 | |
Translation by PM Cahen (Universidad Técnica Particular de Loja) and CA Martínez Arcos
“The need for news is similar to that of food, shelter and clothing. This interest has led to a concern about what others say, or think” (Benítez, 2000: 33) (non-official translation). Here, lies the importance of knowing the factors that influence journalistic themes.
The agenda setting theory states that the mass media have a strong influence on society since they determine which news items are of greater informative interest, how much space these news items should occupy, and for how long they will remain to be important.
“Studies about mass communication confirm that the media has significant effects on society, even though there has recently been a consensus on the nature and the scope of such effects” (Rubio, 2009) (non-official translation).The relevance of this theory lies in its ability to measure the capacity of the media to determine the category of importance of each piece of information that is going to be disseminated, in order to reach larger audiences and achieve greater impact and advertising revenue. In the same way that the media select what will be published, they also decide which types of news stories will not be published, depending on their economic, moral, political, ideological interests, or their journalistic importance.
The theory of the agenda setting states that the media agenda, which is comprised of the news items disseminated by the media, will have an influence on a specific society. Furthermore, the media agenda establishes the impact of the press —both printed and online—, monitors the information disseminated by the different media and examines the reception of this information. This theory also studies how the news media influence society and public opinion. Through the agenda setting the press becomes more than a mere provider of information or opinion articles. The press reaches audiences with different types of ideologies and interests, all of which are influenced by journalists, columnists and press editors. “La teoría de la agenda-setting se ha convertido en un mapa que da cuenta, con todo lujo de detalles, de la agenda mediática y de sus efectos” (McCombs, 2006:13). (non-official translation).
The agenda setting is defined as “the capacity of the mass media to select and highlight certain themes over others, and in doing so to make the public to perceive the highlighted themes as being important” (McCombs; Maxwell and Shaw, 1972: 36). “Within the dominant tradition of the media effects studies there exists an approach known as ‘agenda setting’ or the creation of the agenda. This field of research began in the early seventies with the work of McCombs and Shaw (1972)” (McCombs, Maxwell and Shaw, 1972: 176-187), which constitutes the theoretical framework of this study.
Public opinion is the symbolic key to govern in a democracy. It is comprised of opinions such as expressed judgments, which may be verbal or behavioral, or which may be either against or in favor of various opinions. They are based on rational and/or emotional predispositions, which, in the main, remain implicit. (Sampedro, 2000: 20) (non-official translation).
This theory highlights the importance of the media and remarks that the information they provide is not always obtained from the main sources and that there is information that sometimes they hide. The news media decide what information to disseminate or hide, and this power determines, greatly, the information that the mainstream media disseminate.
Recent agenda setting studies are based on the use of content analysis, surveys and comparative analyses. These methods allow the identification of the parameters used by the media to select and organise their agenda. Recent studies have focused on studying “the effects of the messages on the public and have used surveys and content analysis as powerful resources; as they tend to contrast the relation between the media agenda and the issues that the public consider important” (non-official translation of Cervantes, 2001: 52). So, in general terms, the media have the task of providing objective contents that include the issues that matter and engage the majority of the audience.
In addition, our study aims to identify the daily routines of the print media in order to understand the guidelines followed by journalists to establish the agenda setting. Based on the agenda setting theory, this study focuses on evaluating the degree of investigative journalism carried out by the sample of newspapers under study. We argue that the main public institutions become the main sources of information for the news media and provide the main news format used by the media.
This article is part of the national research project titled “Analysis of the agenda setting in Ecuador”, which had the participation of 15 professors/researchers and 66 students of the Social Communication (Open and Distance Education System) of the Universidad Técnica Particular de Loja. This research was carried out throughout 2012. The data was collected between April and May, while the analysis and presentation of results were carried out in the following months.
2. The agenda setting
Antonia González comments on the origin of the agenda setting and affirms that: “… it all forms part of a theory that commenced at the end of the 60s within the positivist framework of North American “Communications Research”, which has become the main theory for explaining the influence of communications media on forming public opinion” (González, 2000: 1) (non-official translation).
The concept of agenda setting refers to the list of topics that are published in the media based on their ideas of what is of general interest. This study of the agenda setting is based on the importance that media gives to the public agenda and its impact on the setting of the media agenda. The public opinion thus constitutes one of the core aims of the agenda setting because of its influence on the public agenda. As Miralles points out:
Thanks to public opinion, however, media companies can determine the themes that will be given priority in a given society. “… the media do not define the opinion of the public; neither can they control the public according to their wishes. However, they can determine the subjects that are socially important” (Romero, 2006: 52) (non-official translation).Although the media should strive to provide objective information to the audience, it can betray its original responsibility and intentionally distort the truth. That is why the media’s informative performance becomes even more important.
“… the media will have the power of precisely defining the agenda of the reader or the spectator; every time we read a newspaper or watch newscasts, it is as if the media were saying: «Today, we are going to talk about X», thereby pointing out the topics which we need to know about, and those which we need to form an opinion about” (Boni, 2008:115) (non-official translation).
Despite the process followed by the media to formulate journalistic topics, there are other factors that influence this process, too. “The press has many different guises—among them are: media as industry, media as business, media as a form of providing information and entertainment, media as a service, and media as a mechanism of political influence” (Sohr: 1998:12) (non-official translation).Bearing in mind these characteristics, it could be inferred that the media are often coerced to satisfy the interests of various interest groups.
3. Print media in Ecuador
The origins of journalism in Ecuador date back to the launch of some prestigious national newspapers. The first newspaper in Ecuador, and the third in Latin America, was Primicias de la Cultura de Quito,“…it was a newspaper that was exclusively literary. It was edited at Raimundo Salazar Publishers—with express permission from the Head of Government” (Ceriola, 1909: 6) (non-official translation), launched in 5 January 1792, which became the Ecuadorian Journalists’ Day. This newspaper is known for its emphasis on justice and liberty and for being the first newspaper to be printed in the first printing press brought to Ecuador, to Ambato in 1755 to be precise .
Beginning with Primicias, there are many newspapers that have been in circulation until the present date. It is estimated that up until the XX century, there existed approximately 1,000 types of media (Rolando, 1920), afterwards many newspapers were launched but faced constant difficulties because the government tried to silence them. Ever since, the debate on free speech has become more and more important. “… the Ecuadorian man always trembled when it came to fighting for his trampled dignity” (Garcia, 1979) (non-official translation).
Table 1: Classification of Ecuadorian daily newspapers (2012)
Source: Authors’ own creation based on data taken from the Ecuadorian Association of Newspaper Editors, Media Guide 2009-2010 and websites of newspapers.
3.1. Case studies
El Comercio newspaper was launched in Quito, the capital of Ecuador on 1 January, 1906, by Carlos Mantilla Jacomé. This newspaper company later published some magazines, like Familia, Carburando, As Deportivo, Educación, La Pandilla, Líderes, Últimas Noticias, and launched several radio stations like Radio Platinum and Radio Quito .
El Universo newspaper was founded on 16 September, 1921, by Ismael Pérez Pazmiño . Although it has the highest number of readers, it has often faced the rejection of Rafael Correa, the President of Ecuador, who took legal action against it for an editorial piece written on 30 September 2010 .
The fourth newspaper that we studied was El Mercurio, which was launched on 22 October, 1924 .
The study examines the ideology that informs the agenda setting of four different Ecuadorian newspapers and in particular their positions towards the practice of investigative journalism, their main sources or producers of information, and the format and characteristics of their published news.
In addition to the previous objectives, this study was guided by the following hypotheses:
1. Investigative journalism is part of the daily routines involved in the agenda setting.
4.3. Research technique
Content analysis was used to identify and classify the news items. This technique is frequently used to analyse journalism texts. According to Krippendorff (1997: 28), “content analysis is a research technique that aims to formulate, based on certain data, valid and reproducible inferences that can be applied to their context”. This will allows us to make deductions about the sample of newspapers. We will use this technique to examine newspaper articles, which are treated as units of analysis , and thus obtain quantitative results about certain variables .
The sample of analysis corresponds to the all the contents published by the four newspapers during five non-consecutive days: Monday 16 April, Tuesday 24 April, Wednesday 2 May, Thursday 10 May, and Friday 18 May. We believed that this sample selection method provided validity and credibility to our work, and ensured that the data could be verified and used for future research.
4.4. Areas of analysis
The analysis was guided by a list created by the aforementioned research group. The list of analysis consists of nine sections:
This list of elements enabled us to determine the basis of the Ecuadorian mass media to organise news content. This article presents the results regarding only the following two sections: 1) origin of information and 2) structure of information and format of news, which suffice to meet the aforementioned objectives.
Table 2: Protocol of content analysis
Source: Authors’ own creation. Note: The above terms reflect the media types used in Ecuador.
4.5. Sample design
The whole universe of print media in Ecuador is comprised by 30 newspapers. Our sample selection focused on including the 4 newspapers with the wider dissemination in the most populated areas in Ecuador (such as in the highlands and the coast). The selected newspapers are presented below. The first three are national newspapers and the last one is regional. The inclusion of the provincial newspaper was motivated by its trajectory and importance.
This sample selection aims to provide comparable results due to the characteristics of each newspaper.
From this sample of newspapers a total of 1,332 news items or units of analysis were selected. Of these news items, 341 (25.6%) were obtained from El Universo; 235 (17.6%) from El Mercurio; 228 (17.1%) from El Telegrafo; and 528 (39.7%) from El Comericio.
5.1. The origin of information
This section aims to identify the main producers of information, i.e. the institutions that generate news or manage to turn their events into relevant news for certain groups.
The following figure shows that the public organisations or entities are the main news providers for the sample of newspapers (with 42%). The second most important news provider is the category ‘others’ (28%), which comprises the individuals and institutions that are not included in the categories “public” or “private” institutions; “political parties”, “NGOs” or “unions”. The third most important news provider, with 26%, is the private entities. Political parties, unions, NGOs and social organisations play a minimal role as news makers and provide little input to the media agenda.
Figure 1. Sources of information
Source: Authors’ own creation.
5.2. Investigative Journalism
Research should be the fundamental basis of journalism. In this study we aimed to identify the news sources and to determine whether they are the result of the daily routines or investigative journalism (see Figure 2).
Productive routines motivate 68% of the news, i.e. the events covered by the media. Meanwhile, investigative journalism was the source of just 4% of all the sample of news. In this sense, it is clear that only a minimal percentage of the news published by the newspapers is actually created by their journalists.
Our research shows that there is a severe lack of practice of in-depth investigative journalism in Ecuador. In El Telégrafo, investigative journalism on a particular theme is only carried out once a month, while in El Mercurio the lack of time is the determining factor for not doing investigative journalism.
News agencies also constitute an important provider of news, as they provide 21% of all the published news. Within this classification, we include the news agencies EFE and AFP.
Figure 2: Investigative journalism in the Ecuadorian press
This study is based on the identification of journalism formats and the characteristics of the published news content. It is important to highlight that the same news item may possess several characteristics and thus belong to several categories. Of the 1,332 news items, we obtained 1,594 multiple answer categories.
As figure 3 shows, “brief news” is the most common format in sample of newspapers, with a total of 563 news items, (35.3% of the total). The short-relevance news items (264) constituted 16.6% of the sample of news. The traditional or standard news items were the third most common news format, constituting 230 (or 14.4%) of the total sample. The rest of the sample is divided into 14 additional categories. The lack of fake news items contributes to the credibility of the newspapers under study.
Figure 3: Structure of information and format of news
Source: Authors’ own creation.
The print media in Ecuador are not focused on investigative journalism. They prefer to focus on the daily production routines, i.e. on finding news in places most frequently used by the media companies. This fact demonstrates the success of the public relations teams of the public and private entities, which are capable of getting the media to disseminate their work and press releases.
Irene Agudelo explains that “news making is a process of negotiation between the journalistic institution, its workers and the institutions of power. This negotiation is often assimilated and institutionalised, through insistence, as part of the production routines” (non-official translation of Agudelo, 1996). It is here where the groups of power that are focused on private interests and not on providing fair and objective information come into play. Unfortunately, in order to serve their own interests, the media companies manipulate the truth by transmitting news stories that only benefit certain groups in society.
Given that the public organisations or entities are the main producers of news, they are the places that are daily visited by journalists to obtain information.
Brief and short-relevance news stories are the types of news used the most by the Ecuadorian press because they are the journalistic format focused on events of common interest.
The identification of the parameters used by the press allows us to get a clear idea of the main factors involved in the agenda setting by the Ecuadorian press.
I Agudelo (1996): “La influencia de las rutinas productivas en la construcción del acontecer nacional. El caso de Siglo 21, periódico de Guadalajara, México”. Revista Comunicación y Sociedad. No. 28, DOI: 10002-10000 A.
E Avilés (undated): Imprenta. Available at www.enciclopediadelecuador.com/temasOpt.php?Ind=1083&Let=, consulted on 22-01-2013.
E Avilés (undated): Periodismo. Available at http://www.enciclopediadelecuador.com/temasOpt.php?Ind=1730&Let, fecha de consulta: 05-01-2013.
JA Benítez (2000): Los orígenes del periodismo en nuestra América. Buenos Aires-Argentina: Lumen.
F Boni (2008): Teorías de los medios de comunicación. Barcelona-España: INO Reproducciones.
J Ceriola (1909): Compendio de la Historia del Periodismo en el Ecuador. Guayaquil-Ecuador: Tip. y Lit. de la Sociedad Filantrópica del Guayas.
C Cervantes (2001): La Sociología de las noticias y el enfoque Agenda Setting, Guadalajara - México: Departamento de Estudios de Comunicación Social, Universidad de Guadalajara.
G García (1979): Ensayo sobre la historia de la literatura ecuatoriana. Quito: Imprenta Nacional.
A González (2000): "Producción del temario periodístico local". Revista Latina de Comunicación Social, 25. Recuperado el 22 de agosto de 2013 de: http://www.ull.es/publicaciones/latina/aa2000yen/150antonia.html
K Krippendorff (1997): Metodología de análisis de contenido, teoría y práctica, Buenos Aires-Argentina: Paidós.
M López (1995): Cómo se fabrican las noticias. Barcelona– España: Paidós
M McCombs, D Shaw (1972): “The agenda-setting function of mass media”, Public Opinion Quartely, 36, pp. 176-187.
K Neuendorf (2002): The content analysis guidebook. Sage, Thousand Oaks, pp. 52-54.
R Rodríguez (2004): Teoría de la Agenda Setting, aplicación a la enseñanza universitaria. España: CEE Limencop, S.L.
C Rolando (1920): Cronología del Periodismo Ecuatoriano PSEUDÓNIMOS de la PRENSA NACIONAL. Guayaquil-Ecuador: Imprenta y Papelería Mercantil-Monteverde & Velarde.
L Romero (2006): Espejismos de papel. La realidad periodística. México: Facultad de Ciencias Políticas y Sociales de la Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México.
JM Rubio (2009): “Opinión pública y medios de comunicación. Teoría de la agenda setting”, en Gazeta de Antropología. España. Disponible en: http://www.ugr.es/~pwlac/G25_01JoseMaria_Rubio_Ferreres.pdf
X Soengas (2003): El tratamiento informativo del lenguaje audiovisul. Madrid-España: del Laberinto.
V. Sampedro (2000): “Opinión pública, poder y democracia deliberativa”, en SAMPEDRO, Víctor, Opinión pública y democracia deliberativa. Medios, sondeos y urnas, Madrid: Ed. Istmo, p. 20.
R Sohr (1998): Historia y poder de la prensa. Santiago de Chile: Editorial Andrés Bello.
RD Wimmer, JR Dominick (1996): La investigación científica de los medios de comunicación. Una introducción a sus métodos. Barcelona: Bosch.
 Efrén Avilés was a writer, professor and historian born in Guayaquil on 26 February, 1947. He was the son of Efrén Avilés Tabares and Eugenia Pino Yerovi. He dedicated his entire professional life to documental and archival historical, geographical, and biographical research. His works include: Himno del Club Sport Emelec (“The Emelec Sporting Club Anthem”) (1991); Diccionario del Ecuador Histórico, Geográfico y Biográfico (“Historical, Geographical and Biographical Dictionary of Ecuador”) (1994); 500 años de historia (“500 years of history”) (1995); Gobernantes del Ecuador (“Political Leaders of Ecuador”) (1996); Calendario histórico del Ecuador (“Historical Calendar of Ecuador”) (1997).
 On this date, known as 30-S, Ecuador experienced a major political crisis as a result of the public demonstrations of the National Police Force against the Public Service Organic Law, which led President Rafael Correa to declare a State of Exception for the country. Freedom of information was prohibited. Government-run national broadcasts put a stranglehold on the rest of independent TV channels during an-eight hour period. Moreover, 8 people died and 274 were injured during the altercations with the police and the military. On 30 February, 2011, Emilio Palacio published an article in “El Universo” titled “NO to the lies”, which blamed Rafael Correa for what happened on 30-S. This article led to the temporary closure of the media company. This was followed by a legal battle in which the newspaper in question was fined 40 million dollars. Emilio Palacios and three other newspaper directors from El Universo were later charged, and subsequently pardoned in February 2012.
 Wimmer, Roger D. and Dominick, Joseph R., La investigación científica de los medios de comunicación. Una introducción a sus métodos (“the scientific research of the media. An introduction to their methods”), Bosch, Barcelona, 1996, pp. 168-171.
HOW TO CITE THIS ARTICLE IN BIBLIOGRAHIES / REFERENCES
D Rivera Rogel, MI Punín Larrea, D Calva Cabrera (2013): “Agenda setting in Ecuadorian media. Daily: El Universo, El Mercurio, El Comercio and El Telégrafo”, at Revista Latina de Comunicación Social, 68. La Laguna (Tenerife): Universidad de La Laguna, pages 529 to 544 retrieved on ___ de ___th of ____ of 2_______, from
Article received on 20 July 2013. Submitted to pre-review on 22 July. Sent to reviewers on 23 July. Accepted on 26 August 2013. Galley proofs made available to the authoress on 30 August 2013. Approved by authoress on: 1 September 2013. Published on 2 September 2013.
Note: the DOI number is part of the bibliographic references and it must be cited if you cited this article.