Two Step Flow Theory and It’s Effect on my News/Media Consumption

Colleen Harley
3 min readSep 9, 2022
photo credit: https://www.istockphoto.com/vector/social-media-marketing-mobile-phone-concept-influencer-concept-gm1271286647-373925247

I remember during my brief stint in Journalism classes in high school, and during undergrad there was ALWAYS one golden rule. That rule was “Never be biased in Journalism/News Topics.”

Growing up in such a central media hub like Philadelphia, and attending a school like Temple University during undergrad- I thought it was common knowledge for every person working within the media realm. BIAS = BAD. All media/news outlets should be unbiased as their sole purpose is to present the facts and specifics of a topic without interjecting any type of opinions into their stories or briefs. Right?

Two-step flow theory says otherwise though. According to an excerpt from the book “International Encyclopedia of the Social & Behavioral Sciences” taken from an article written by Gabriel Weimann and contributed to the book, the definition of two-step flow theory is,

The concept of the ‘two-step flow of communication’ suggests that the flow of information and influence from the mass media to their audiences involves two steps: from the media to certain individuals (i.e., the opinion leaders) and from them to the public.(International Encyclopedia of the Social & Behavioral Sciences | ScienceDirect, 2015)

Okay, so basically two-step flow theory is all based around opinion, and what gets put out into media/news outlets, is all based off of certain people (read- OPINION LEADERS)?

Simply put- yes. That’s essentially what this theory is all about. Hence, why it is a theory. But, unfortunately, it does seem to reign true. Linked here, this Youtube video breaks down an example of how two-step theory works beyond just a simple definition.

source: two-step-flow-theory-2

Now, I will admit- I am very hard headed and don’t like to listen very often. I like to pretend like I’m not super easily influenced by the media- wether it be news outlets or social media. Unfortunately I am- especially when it comes to politics. Though I tend not to have direct contact with the opinion leaders, I do tend to consume exclusively the media that resonates with me and my personal beliefs when it comes to political topics. I catch myself following the specific types of news organizations and opinion leaders that share the specific types of information that closely relate to what I think as well.

In the day in age of social media and bias news-networks, I think it has almost become impossible for two-step flow theory to not become the main way of communication. It’s human nature for us to gravitate towards things that give us comfort or we resonate with, and unfortunately, news has become one of those topics that isn’t simply fact anymore- there is always a little bit of an opinion mixed in because people simply want to consume what they believe is right- not the actual facts of the stories that are being presented.

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