Human stem cell research : tracking media attention in time from 1998-2005

Morrison, Christa (De Swardt) (2006-12)

Thesis (MA (Journalism))--University of Stellenbosch, 2006.


Moral questions arising from advances in science and technology are proliferating exponentially. Much controversy surrounds the ways in which biotechnology is used to eradicate a vast range of diseases and injuries. Stem cell research is one such way. Throughout the world stem cell research has been met with varying responses that range from opposition and criticism to approval and advocacy. As a result, it has attracted significant attention from the news media. The media have been accused of bias by focusing only on the controversial aspects of the research as opposed to reporting fully and fairly on the remarkable scientific advances. In this study I look at the patterns of media attention paid to stem cell research in the international weekly magazine Time between November 1998 and September 2005 inclusive. Contrary to the results expected on the basis of my literature study which pointed out the notion that the media tend to focus on sensational news more than non-controversial issues, I found that Time did a fair job in reporting on the scientific aspects of stem cell research. The percentage content of articles by year, focusing on scientific information of stem cells, dominated other news frames. The two years following the 2000 and 2004 American presidential elections, are however marked by the dominance of policy frames. This study found that Time covered controversial issues like embryonic stem cell research, public funding debates and political policy development in direct relation to their rise and fall on the political agenda in the United States.

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