This paper addresses the ways in which breast cancer science is mediated by popular media in the UK. It analyzes the ways in which the ‘discoveries’ of breast cancer genes ‘BRCA1 and 2’ have been reported in press and television. In addition, the paper examines the role of source organizations and the promotion strategies which are adopted to publicize scientific research. Finally, I examine the impact of such reporting on women’s knowledge and beliefs about genetic risk and breast cancer.

This paper systematically examines the media reporting of breast cancer science and identifies the factors that influence coverage of this issue. In particular it explores the sources of breast cancer news stories andidentifies which press releases attract attention and why. The paper traces the path of breast cancer science from specialist journals to popular media to address why certain journal papers attract publicity and how genetic knowledge about breast cancer has been promoted.

I analyze how and why gene stories have emerged and why, in our longitudinal press sample, genetic risk received more attention than any other risk factor (apart from a woman’s age). I also provide a systematic analysis of how genetic risk is located alongside other risk factors such as age, health behavior and environment. To address these questions I draw upon a 3-year sample of breast cancer reporting in the UK press (1995-97) and a 4-month sample of comprehensive media coverage (which includes press, magazines, drama and documentaries).

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Public Communication of Science and Technology

 

Promoting 'the Gene'
Media coverage of breast cancer science

Lesley Henderson   University of Glasgow, Media Unit

This paper addresses the ways in which breast cancer science is mediated by popular media in the UK. It analyzes the ways in which the ‘discoveries’ of breast cancer genes ‘BRCA1 and 2’ have been reported in press and television. In addition, the paper examines the role of source organizations and the promotion strategies which are adopted to publicize scientific research. Finally, I examine the impact of such reporting on women’s knowledge and beliefs about genetic risk and breast cancer.

This paper systematically examines the media reporting of breast cancer science and identifies the factors that influence coverage of this issue. In particular it explores the sources of breast cancer news stories andidentifies which press releases attract attention and why. The paper traces the path of breast cancer science from specialist journals to popular media to address why certain journal papers attract publicity and how genetic knowledge about breast cancer has been promoted.

I analyze how and why gene stories have emerged and why, in our longitudinal press sample, genetic risk received more attention than any other risk factor (apart from a woman’s age). I also provide a systematic analysis of how genetic risk is located alongside other risk factors such as age, health behavior and environment. To address these questions I draw upon a 3-year sample of breast cancer reporting in the UK press (1995-97) and a 4-month sample of comprehensive media coverage (which includes press, magazines, drama and documentaries).

A copy of the full paper has not yet been submitted.

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