A quantitative content analysis of biotechnology-related coverage appearing in the  New York Times,  Washington  Post,  Los  Angeles  Times,  St.  Louis  Post-Dispatch  and  Newsweek  from  1995  to 1999  reveals  that  overall  media  attention  to  biotechnology  across  the  five  publications  slightly increased  between  1995  and  1996,  sharply  spiked  in  1997  during  the  period  of  national  debate  on cloning research, and then slightly declined in 1998 and 1999. Within the years 1997, 1998, and 1999, media  attention  peaked  and  plummeted  in  correspondence  to  the  latest  major  article  in  a  leading science  journal,  the  announcements  of  politicians  or  regulatory  bodies,  a  major  announcement  at  a scientific  meeting,  or  the  occasional  high-profile  incident.  Content  of  coverage  shifted  from  a  heavy positive  emphasis  on  economic  prospect  and  progress  during  the  gene  therapy  and pharmaceutical-dominated years of 1995 and 1996, to a sharp increase in discussion of ethics in 1997 related to cloning, and in 1999 to a new emphasis on public accountability that reflected developments in regulation and social protest over the issue of GM agriculture. The level of reporting on controversy sharply increased in 1997 and continued to increase in 1999. Comparison of media content to the trend of  increasing  negative  perceptions  of  genetic  engineering  among  the  opinion-leading  public  suggests an agenda-setting, priming, and framing influence of the media. 
 

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A comparison of US media coverage of biotechnology with public perceptions of genetic engineering 1995 1999

Matt Nisbet   Cornell University

Bruce V. Lewenstein   Cornell University

A quantitative content analysis of biotechnology-related coverage appearing in the  New York Times,  Washington  Post,  Los  Angeles  Times,  St.  Louis  Post-Dispatch  and  Newsweek  from  1995  to 1999  reveals  that  overall  media  attention  to  biotechnology  across  the  five  publications  slightly increased  between  1995  and  1996,  sharply  spiked  in  1997  during  the  period  of  national  debate  on cloning research, and then slightly declined in 1998 and 1999. Within the years 1997, 1998, and 1999, media  attention  peaked  and  plummeted  in  correspondence  to  the  latest  major  article  in  a  leading science  journal,  the  announcements  of  politicians  or  regulatory  bodies,  a  major  announcement  at  a scientific  meeting,  or  the  occasional  high-profile  incident.  Content  of  coverage  shifted  from  a  heavy positive  emphasis  on  economic  prospect  and  progress  during  the  gene  therapy  and pharmaceutical-dominated years of 1995 and 1996, to a sharp increase in discussion of ethics in 1997 related to cloning, and in 1999 to a new emphasis on public accountability that reflected developments in regulation and social protest over the issue of GM agriculture. The level of reporting on controversy sharply increased in 1997 and continued to increase in 1999. Comparison of media content to the trend of  increasing  negative  perceptions  of  genetic  engineering  among  the  opinion-leading  public  suggests an agenda-setting, priming, and framing influence of the media. 
 

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