Outline the five stages in the public policymaking process.
(1) agenda setting, (2) formulation, (3) adoption, (4) implementation and administration, and (5) evaluation are the five steps of the public policymaking process. When the media covers a topic extensively and frames it as a problem that requires politicians' attention, it propels it onto the policy agenda. The extensive reporting of how many Americans were sickened by tainted eggs and spinach, for example, eventually led to a statute overhauling the food safety system and giving the Food and Drug Administration additional authority.
When a problem is on the table, officials frequently provide solutions. They may have a number of different policies from which to pick. The way the media frames the issue, how they cover policymakers' arguments and debates, and what policy choices they broadcast all have an impact on policy formulation. As a result, illegal drug manufacture, distribution, and consumption might be portrayed as a law-and-order issue, a health issue (e.g., medical marijuana), or a common recreational pastime.
Policies must be adopted by the appropriate government institutions before they can be implemented. The media can serve as a platform for different parties to argue their reasons for policy approval. However, there are times when coverage is one-sided. It increases the chances of a policy proposal being adopted when it is positive. When it is unfavorable, it can derail a policy, as we saw with President Bush's proposed changes to Social Security.
Policy decisions necessitate policy implementation and management. The bureaucracy is entrusted by Congress with developing the specific standards and procedures that will carry out the policy's intent. Even the most serious and dedicated bureaucrat may find administration and implementation difficult due to the messy reality. Incompetence, neglect, ineptitude, and scandals in the bureaucracy are not uncommon. At the state or local level, policies can be ignored or subverted. At this stage of the policy process, the media can be a powerful factor. However, most policy implementation and administration take place behind closed doors, and finding and exposing them takes time, even with investigative reporting. As a result, media attention is inconsistent and limited to a few policies.
Policy evaluation, or determining the success of a policy, can be difficult. Through their reporting, the media can assess policy. They also report on and make public parts of the government's policy assessments, congressional committee policy oversight studies, and congressional hearings. They disseminate the findings of public interest groups (e.g., that many tobacco subsidy recipients do not cultivate tobacco) and whistle-blower revelations (e.g., documents showing that the tobacco companies long knew that smoking causes diseases).