Guard Dog Theory

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Description of Guard Dog Theory. Explanation.


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Definition Guard Dog Theory. Description.

The Guard Dog Theory holds that mass media and journalists (primarily) support dominant political institutions, major economic groups, and their values, but can and do criticize those organizations, especially when elite class members of those groups violate system values or when they criticize each other. Journalists provide support for the existing power structures, even while occasionally producing content critical of it and elites.

In contrast to a passive “lapdog,” the guard-dog media occasionally attack an individual in power, but they focus the blame on the individual, not the system. Indeed, journalists rely heavily on official sources and official definitions of situations (Paletz and Entman 1981). They use official sources to add prestige or legitimacy to a story and maintain the illusion of objectivity (McLeod and Hertog 1998).

Developed by Phillip J. Tichenor, George A. Donahue and Clarice N. Olien (1995), proponents of this theory take the middle ground between the Watchdog Model and the Lap Dog Theory, claiming that mass media are neither lap dogs of the powerful, not watchdogs of the weak and oppressed. Because elites primarily control the media agenda and provide most news and information to the journalists, the media act as a guard dog not for the entire community, but for political and special interest elite groups that hold political and economical power.

An important consequence of this thinking is that the mass media support the status quo.


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Compare with: Lap Dog Theory  |  Watchdog Model  |  Media Functions  |  Framing  |  Whistle Blower  |  Charismatic Leadership  |  Corporate Responsibility  |  Attribution Theory  |  Crisis Management  |  Public Relations  |  Core Group Theory  |  Groupthink

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