The Hype and the Hope: Press Coverage of Hybrid Embryos
Thursday, June 25, 2009
The report was funded by Medical Research Council, Association of Medical Sciences, Wellcome Trust, and Science Media Centre
Researchers at the School have been the first to examine the press coverage of the controversies around creating animal-human hybrid embryos for stem cell research in a new report published this week.
The report, titled 'UK National Newspaper Coverage of Hybrid Embryos: Source strategies and struggles', shows how newspaper reporting of hybrids offers insights into a bitter struggle for coverage between two broad groups.
The first being a large coalition of scientists, funding bodies, charities and pro-hybrid politicians and the second a less cohesive group of religious figures, ethicists, campaigners, and anti-hybrid embryo politicians.
The research also looked at the quiet tactical public relations work that underpins the struggle. It found, overall, those in favour of allowing hybrid embryos to be created won a clear, if contested, media-management victory.
Taken together, the data painted a picture of press coverage over a three-year period which was very broadly in favour of hybrid embryos both in terms of the weight of sources quoted, and the reproduction of key messages, arguments and rhetoric.
Report co-author Dr Andy Williams said: "This was a fascinating case study because it gave us great insights into the invisible struggles for dominance which happen between sources behind the scenes of controversial science stories.
"It fits well with the School’s recent research into the influence of public relations on the news, and adds to our strong body of research into the media coverage of human genomics."
The report revealed newspaper coverage contained more pro-hybrid sources than anti-hybrid sources: 53% of quoted sources were in favour of allowing admixed embryos to be created for stem cell research, compared with 34% who were against, and 13% who were neither clearly for nor against.
The report was jointly funded by Medical Research Council, Association of Medical Sciences, Wellcome Trust, and Science Media Centre and was carried out by the School’s Risk, Science, Health and the Media research group.
UK National Newspaper Coverage of Hybrid Embryos Full Research Report [1.3 MB]