The quality of media reports on discoveries related to human genetic diseases.
ABSTRACT 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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ABSTRACT: The rapid developments in neuroscientific techniques raise high expectations among the general public and therefore warrant close monitoring of the translation to the media and daily-life applications. The need of empirical research into neuroscience communication is emphasized by its susceptibility to evoke misconceptions and polarized beliefs. As the mass media are the main sources of information about (neuro-)science for a majority of the general public, the objective of the current research is to quantify how critically and accurately newspapers report on neuroscience as a function of the timing of publication (within or outside of periods of heightened media attention to neuroscience, termed “news waves”), the topic of the research (e.g. development, health, law) and the newspaper type (quality, popular, free newspapers). The results show that articles published during neuroscience news waves were less neutral and more optimistic, but not different in accuracy. Furthermore, the overall tone and accuracy of articles depended on the topic; for example, articles on development often had an optimistic tone whereas articles on law were often skeptical or balanced, and articles on health care had highest accuracy. Average accuracy was rather low, but articles in quality newspapers were relatively more accurate than in popular and free newspapers. Our results provide specific recommendations for researchers and science communicators, to improve the translation of neuroscience findings through the media: 1) Caution is warranted during periods of heightened attention (news waves), as reporting tends to be more optimistic; 2) Caution is also warranted not to follow topic-related biases in optimism (e.g., development) or skepticism (e.g., law); 3) Researchers should keep in mind that overall accuracy of reporting is low, and especially articles in popular and free newspapers provide a minimal amount of details. This indicates that researchers themselves may need to be more active in preventing misconceptions to arise.PLoS ONE 08/2014; 9(8):e104780. DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0104780 · 3.53 Impact Factor
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ABSTRACT: Studies show that raising news producers' knowledge and skills are influential and necessary for promoting the quality of health news. This study aimed to investigate the barriers to implementing empowerment programs for news producers and to identify their respective solutions. In this qualitative content analysis the opinion of 14 journalists, one translator, 10 editors or editors-in-chief of health news agencies were gathered through 12 in-depth interviews and 4 focus group discussions. Purposive sampling was done and interviews continued up to the point of saturation. Data were analyzed with Open Code software. The barriers to the implementation of empowerment programs were identified as: a) individual factors, b) deficiency of certain facilitators, and c) organizational and macro policymakings. Various solutions were suggested for the barriers respectively. The implementation of empowerment programs for news producers requires a system approach toward its determinant factors. This will be more likely if measures at other concerned levels are also taken. Creating incentives on behalf of the news-producing organizations can also contribute to this end and create a suitable context for news producers. Training and empowerment alone will not be sufficient.
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ABSTRACT: Neuroscience research on sex difference is currently a controversial field, frequently accused of purveying a 'neurosexism' that functions to naturalise gender inequalities. However, there has been little empirical investigation of how information about neurobiological sex difference is interpreted within wider society. This paper presents a case study that tracks the journey of one high-profile study of neurobiological sex differences from its scientific publication through various layers of the public domain. A content analysis was performed to ascertain how the study was represented in five domains of communication: the original scientific article, a press release, the traditional news media, online reader comments and blog entries. Analysis suggested that scientific research on sex difference offers an opportunity to rehearse abiding cultural understandings of gender. In both scientific and popular contexts, traditional gender stereotypes were projected onto the novel scientific information, which was harnessed to demonstrate the factual truth and normative legitimacy of these beliefs. Though strains of misogyny were evident within the readers' comments, most discussion of the study took pains to portray the sexes' unique abilities as equal and 'complementary'. However, this content often resembled a form of benevolent sexism, in which praise of women's social-emotional skills compensated for their relegation from more esteemed trait-domains, such as rationality and productivity. The paper suggests that embedding these stereotype patterns in neuroscience may intensify their rhetorical potency by lending them the epistemic authority of science. It argues that the neuroscience of sex difference does not merely reflect, but can actively shape the gender norms of contemporary society.PLoS ONE 10/2014; 9(10):e110830. DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0110830 · 3.53 Impact Factor