A flood of research in communication studies in the decades since Lazarsfeld has elaborated and revised his findings. The press doesn’t seem to have large, direct, measurable effects on opinion. The standard answer of the sociology of communication is that most of the effects of the press are limited and indirect. The press has the power to set the agenda, to direct attention, to frame political and cultural issues, to shape perceptions over the long term. These are real and meaningful influences, but they are a far cry from the immense powers that are so frequently invoked. [emphasis added]
Here, too, history tells a more complicated tale than the mythology. We will have a hard time pinning the uncovering of the scandal on the press itself. What Bernstein and Woodward did was to reveal the work of the FBI and the courts and Congressional investigators to a wider public. To be sure, the Washington Post moved forward on a story that left most American news outlets uncomfortable. They gave it wide play. They helped legitimate the investigations. But that’s a far cry from picturing the press as the maker of kings.
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