PCST Network

Public Communication of Science and Technology


The Science Grapevine

Gunver Vestergaard  

The influence of blog information on the news coverage of the 2010 arsenic-based life study Gossip and rumors have always been part of the scientific community. Galileo, for example, rushed his publication of the Starry Messenger through, because he had heard rumors of other astronomers who were close to making the same discoveries with the newly invented telescope. However, the public rarely gains access to these informal communication networks within the scientific community. This has changed with the emergence of online blogs. Suddenly the informal debates among scientists are available to not just the public but also journalists, short-circuiting the traditional formal communication networks established by journals and scientific institutions. On my poster I will present a case study of how blog information influenced the media frames during the December 2010 news coverage of the arsenic-based life study. I collected the most read and most cited international online news stories about the event, 44 in total, and performed a framing analysis. I was especially interested in the days before and after two specific blogs about the discovery began circulating among the mass media. The results show how media frames were homogeneous and transformed abruptly from a positive "Gee Whiz" frame towards a critical frame and lastly to a meta media frame over the course of a few days. From beginning to end the blogosphere heavily influenced the content, use of sources and spread of information within the news. Such rapid and uncontrollable influence of blogosphere information on mass media can be explained theoretically as an example of science grapevine communication.

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