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Mass media framing of biotechnology news


Marks, Leonie A.; Kalaitzandonakes, Nicholas; Wilkins, Lee; Zakharova, Ludmila


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Abstract In fast-changing scientific fields like biotechnology, new information and discoveries should influence the balance of risks and rewards and their associated media coverage. This study investigates how reporters interpret and report such information and, in turn, whether they frame the public debate about biotechnology. Mass media coverage of medical and agricultural biotechnology is compared over a 12-year period and in two different countries: the United States and the United Kingdom. We examine whether media have consistently chosen to emphasize the potential risks over the benefits of these applications, or vice versa, and what information might drive any relevant changes in such frames. We find that the two sets of technologies have been framed differently—more positive for medical applications, more negative for agricultural biotechnology. This result holds over time and across different geographic locations. We also find that international events influence media coverage but have been locally framed. This local newsworthiness extends to both medical and agricultural applications. We conclude that such coverage could have led to differences in public perception of the two sets of technology: more negative (or ambivalent) for agricultural, positive for medical applications. Our findings suggest that understanding news frames, and the events that drive them, provides some insight into the long-term formation of public opinion as influenced by news coverage.
Sprache Dokument Englisch
Publikationsjahr 2007
Seitenangabe S. 183-203
Zeitschriftentitel Public Understanding of Science, 16 (2007) 2
DOI http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0963662506065054
Status Postprint; begutachtet (peer reviewed)
Lizenz PEER Licence Agreement (applicable only to documents from PEER project)