The primary focus of this paper is on the process of media content selection and its relationship to changing social conditions.
In recent years much of the communication research has focussedon the manipulative power of the-media, with particular emphasis on the nature of the agenda-setting and image management function of the newspaper industry. The creator-oriented model of media content determination suggests that it is those who own and control the media who decide what information will ultimately reach the public. Thus, it is the interests of those who constitute this controlling elite which come to be expressed as media content.
The literature does, however, also provide support for a model of content determination which accords much of this power to an active, selective audience and recognizes a media management operating within the constraints of a market-dependent industry.
An attempt will be made here to discuss some of those forces which govern content selection and their implications with respect to media portrayal of large-scale social change. The rising womens' movement of the 1960's provides the vehicle for this analysis of media content determination, with an examination of changing womens' images in the humor content of selected magazines and newspapers as the principal focus of the study. While not dealing with the explicitly humorous dimension of comics and cartoons per se, it was felt that an analysis of situational and background variables provided a useful and perhaps overlooked barometer of the roles women assume in media portrayals.
The literature predicts that institutional and occupational forces will serve to incline the media towards entrenchment of the status quo and resistance to significant social changes. In addition, commercial dictates which demand wide-scale societal acceptance of social change prior to media adoption also work to foster resistance to change. Thus, it is predicted that the roles and images of women in both media examined will be predominantly stereotyped and further that both media will be slow to adapt to changing womens' images.
It is argued also however, that media adaptability to social change may vary according to specific type. A focal point of the study involves the discussion and assessment of changing womens' images as a function of the nature of the competitive environment characterizing each medium.