How Miley Cyrus Set the Agenda: Modern Day Journalism

In case you haven’t seen enough articles about the VMA’s, I am here to present you with another one. Mainly because I have a few things to say and I didn’t feel like bothering my Facebook friends with nerdy PR stuff.

Before I get started, I have to ask you to read this lovely article from the Onion: Let Me Explain Why Miley Cyrus’ VMA Performance Was Our Top Story This Morning. (Please keep in mind that the Onion is a satire news source and this was not really written by the CNN Managing Editor.)

Image(Image from Google. I do not own.)

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I understand your frustrations. The dramatic events in Syria are monumentally more important than the new dance moves Ms. Cyrus displayed at the latest award show. Yet, for some ridiculous reason “twerking” was all anyone talked about after the VMA’s. What’s with that?

Let’s back up just a few steps to the very first journalism class I took in college, Introduction to Mass Communications. This class outlined some of the theories addressing the relationship between the media and society. Although we are confident that some theories are way off base, such as the magic bullet (people are mindless robots who believe whatever the media tells them) theory, there was one that seems to hold weight specifically in this situation.


The agenda-setting theory, developed in 1968, basically states that the media producers determine what issues are important to the public in choosing what stories to feature in their programs. Society will in turn consider these issues of greater importance than others.

Example: If Miley Cyrus twerking was on the news, that must be the most important thing going on today.

But as this Onion article points out, it’s even more complicated today. The internet seems to have given the public more power than ever before. Yes, in the past if you didn’t like a news source you could switch to a different channel. Still, these channels were limited. Today, we actually have the ability to start a world-wide conversation about what we believe matters through social media outlets and viral posts.

On Sunday, the VMA’s generated 18.5-million tweets. The public made it clear that they were reacting to the show. Therefore, it does not surprise me that media sources would donate time to the topic come Monday morning. That being said, it does disappoint me.

If you want the media to focus on important issues, TALK ABOUT IMPORTANT ISSUES. Ironically, the huge public reaction to Miley Cyrus did result in an additional reaction. People, like the staff at the Onion, who stepped up to point out how ridiculous the media and the public were acting… bringing even more attention to Syria than there was in the first place.


(For more information on Syria, here is an informative CNN article. Sorry for all the bad media CNN.)


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