The Quality of Media Reports on Discoveries Related to Human Genetic Diseases

Genetics and Public Policy Studies, Institute of Genetic Medicine, The Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions, Baltimore, MD 21209, USA.
Community Genetics (Impact Factor: 1.54). 02/2005; 8(3):133-44. DOI: 10.1159/000086756
Source: PubMed


To examine (1) the quality of media reports (newspapers, television and public radio) of genetic discoveries with medical relevance and (2) factors related to the completeness and balance of the stories.
Analysis of the accuracy, balance, and completeness of 228 media stories reporting 24 genetic discoveries between 1996 and 2000 using a previously validated instrument.
Although usually accurate, the stories contained only 45.5 +/- 13.8% (mean +/- SD) of relevant items. Stories appearing on television and stories reporting discoveries of genes for rare diseases were the least complete. Stories in non-US English-speaking newspapers included more content items per word than US stories. Less balanced stories exaggerated the benefits of discoveries, ignored possible risks, and did not present a range of expert opinion. Scientists were sometimes the source of exaggeration.
To increase the quality of media reports about genetic discoveries, stories should include more relevant items and be written by journalists skilled in science writing. Scientists will have to resist the tendency to exaggerate. These conclusions may apply to media stories of other discoveries as well.

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Available from: Neil A. (Tony) Holtzman, Jan 29, 2014
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    • "Our analysis of newspaper coverage of ocular gene transfer identifies persistent challenges posed by overly positive representations of experimental biotechnologies in all three countries analysed. Sensationalism in the news media is seldom present as blatantly inaccurate reporting [20,28,31]. Instead, as for ocular gene transfer, overly enthusiastic or exaggerated claims are evident through biased framing, errors of omission, and an emphasis on benefits over risks. "
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    BMC Medical Ethics 07/2014; 15(1):58. DOI:10.1186/1472-6939-15-58 · 1.50 Impact Factor
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    • "That said, the media does keep us on our toes and does have a role." These findings confirm what other research has found regarding the media in the context of genetic technologies [23-25], including an awareness of genomics hype through media attention, and underscore the importance of accounting for social pressures on resource allocation structures. "
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    BMC Medical Ethics 07/2009; 10(1):6. DOI:10.1186/1472-6939-10-6 · 1.50 Impact Factor
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    • "In addition, few studies have examined how new developments in basic science are reported in the media, with some attention to financial ties. A study of 228 media stories on genetics found that 13% of stories mentioned funding sources for the research and 3% mentioned how the investigator could financially benefit from the discovery [27]. The same research team interviewed scientists and science journalists and found that they mistrust each other greatly, and that one solution would be to regularly but responsibly disclose financial conflicts of interest [28]. "
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    ABSTRACT: Forthright reporting of financial ties and conflicts of interest of researchers is associated with public trust in and esteem for the scientific enterprise. We searched Lexis/Nexis Academic News for the top news stories in science published in 2004 and 2005. We conducted a content analysis of 1152 newspaper stories. Funders of the research were identified in 38% of stories, financial ties of the researchers were reported in 11% of stories, and 5% reported financial ties of sources quoted. Of 73 stories not reporting on financial ties, 27% had financial ties publicly disclosed in scholarly journals. Because science journalists often did not report conflict of interest information, adherence to gold-standard recommendations for science journalism was low. Journalists work under many different constraints, but nonetheless news reports of scientific research were incomplete, potentially eroding public trust in science.
    PLoS ONE 02/2007; 2(12):e1266. DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0001266 · 3.23 Impact Factor
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