Third edition of Shoemaker's groundbreaking book, "Mediating the Message," published by Routledge

By Greg Munno

January 14, 2014

Pamela Shoemaker, Jon Ben Snow Professor at the Newhouse School, and co-author Stephen Reese have thoroughly updated their highly influential book, "Mediating the Message: Theories of Influence on Mass Media Content." First published in 1991 with a second edition appearing in 1996, "Mediating the Message" has been cited a staggering 2,156 times, according to Google Scholar, and was named one of the “most significant books of the 20th century” by Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly—clear indicators of the book’s outsized influence on communication scholarship. Because of the book’s clear writing, engaging examples and useful insights, it has also been read by countless students, media professionals and others outside of the academy.

Shoemaker and Reese, a professor at the University of Texas at Austin, have given the book a comprehensive makeover in "Mediating the Message in the 21st Century: A Media Sociology Perspective," which was recently released by Routledge. Although the core of the book is much the same—examining the “hierarchical model,” which explores different levels of influence on media content from individuals to social systems—all of the examples and much of the supporting material have been updated and refreshed.

The celebrated author and sociologist Gaye Tuchman has also provided a forward for this new edition, in which she praises the book for providing penetrating insights into questions about media old and new. “Pamela Shoemaker and Stephen Reese present the hierarchy of influence to help us think about the power of the media today,” Tuchman writes. “They also present new ways to think about older questions that still seem vital as mass media and social media permeate our lives: Who we are and how we fit into the families, organizations, institutions and nations in which we are embedded.”

Shoemaker says she knew "Mediating the Message" would have an impact when it was first published, in part because there was very little theory about the influences on media content at the time. “I said to Stephen Reese, ‘This book is going to change the field,’” Shoemaker recalls. “There was  fair amount of news sociology research, but little of it related to each other. The hierarchical model allows people to situate their work and make it part of a broader conversation. It is a very useful tool, and for that reason I am not too surprised that it caught on the way it has.”

Nonetheless, Shoemaker and Reese thought it time for an update. “The work on the 1996 edition was finished in 1995, just as digital content began to emerge and before there was anything called social media,” Shoemaker says. “The changes since then demanded a thorough revision. As a result, the book is almost completely new. Even the hierarchical model has been refined, and examples of its application have all been changed.”

Shoemaker credits her students at Newhouse with helping to keep her scholarship fresh by bringing her new pieces of research and challenging her with diverse perspectives on media and the world. She specifically credits research assistant Jaime Ricco, a media studies alumnus and current Ph.D. student at Newhouse, and Christi MacClurg, her administrative assistant, with contributing to the new edition. MacClurg managed all the references in the book—more than 600 of them—while Ricco was the point of contact with Routledge, fielding questions and suggestions from the editors at the New York-based publishing giant.

"Mediating the Message in the 21st Century" is available on Amazon and at Syracuse University Library.