Exploring the controversy surrounding therapeutic human cloning, this paper presents part of the research results from a forthcoming book, which questions the role of science journalism as a site for political engagement. This book draws upon data collected from news articles and interviews with journalists to examine the role of news media in shaping biomedical controversies in the public sphere. With specific reference to the US and the UNITED KINGDOM as two leading scientific nations grappling with the global issue of therapeutic cloning, together with attention to the important role played by nations in Southeast Asia, this book sheds light on media representations of scientific developments, the unrealistic hype that can surround them, the influence of religion and the potentially harmful imposition of journalistic and nationalist values on the scientific field. This paper provides a general overview of the book’s arguments, but then focuses in particular on the crucial role of news sources in constructing science journalism. It identifies a heavy reliance on institutionally recognised scientist sources to provide these raw materials. Such expert sources help “fix the parameters of discourse and interpretation, and the definition of what is newsworthy” (Herman & Chomsky, 1988, p. 2: 2). In this chapter, the following questions are addressed regarding the role of scientist sources in therapeutic cloning coverage: On what basis are scientists selected as sources of information, analysis and expert commentary? What forms of scientific expertise are employed by the selected sources? What positions and ideas are promoted by scientist sources? A number of key limitations inherent in the practice of contemporary science journalism are identified, which may make the journalistic field an irremediably flawed venue for engaging publics and sciences in pluralistic dialogue and debate. These flaws remain salient despite a shifting media landscape. There is a greater than ever need for reporting and analysis of new scientific developments in a manner that can be critical and independent, holding scientists and scientific institutions to account for their truth claims. The general failure of contemporary science journalism to perform this fourth estate function has negative consequences for political engagement within democratic nations.

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The rapeutic cloning debate
Global science and journalism in the public sphere

Eric Jensen   University of Warwick, United Kingdom

Exploring the controversy surrounding therapeutic human cloning, this paper presents part of the research results from a forthcoming book, which questions the role of science journalism as a site for political engagement. This book draws upon data collected from news articles and interviews with journalists to examine the role of news media in shaping biomedical controversies in the public sphere. With specific reference to the US and the UNITED KINGDOM as two leading scientific nations grappling with the global issue of therapeutic cloning, together with attention to the important role played by nations in Southeast Asia, this book sheds light on media representations of scientific developments, the unrealistic hype that can surround them, the influence of religion and the potentially harmful imposition of journalistic and nationalist values on the scientific field. This paper provides a general overview of the book’s arguments, but then focuses in particular on the crucial role of news sources in constructing science journalism. It identifies a heavy reliance on institutionally recognised scientist sources to provide these raw materials. Such expert sources help “fix the parameters of discourse and interpretation, and the definition of what is newsworthy” (Herman & Chomsky, 1988, p. 2: 2). In this chapter, the following questions are addressed regarding the role of scientist sources in therapeutic cloning coverage: On what basis are scientists selected as sources of information, analysis and expert commentary? What forms of scientific expertise are employed by the selected sources? What positions and ideas are promoted by scientist sources? A number of key limitations inherent in the practice of contemporary science journalism are identified, which may make the journalistic field an irremediably flawed venue for engaging publics and sciences in pluralistic dialogue and debate. These flaws remain salient despite a shifting media landscape. There is a greater than ever need for reporting and analysis of new scientific developments in a manner that can be critical and independent, holding scientists and scientific institutions to account for their truth claims. The general failure of contemporary science journalism to perform this fourth estate function has negative consequences for political engagement within democratic nations.

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