For novel issues like food nanotechnology, media can play an important role in shaping the awareness and mental associations that underlie public opinion. Seeking to complement recent research exploring public opinion formation about food nanotechnology, this study tracks the evolution of U.S. newspaper coverage of food nanotechnology, identifying the descriptive and thematic traits that have characterized this coverage over time. We use a rigorous methodology to examine the levels of coverage, authorship patterns, and thematic emphases exhibited in the American journalistic narrative about this burgeoning application of nanoscience. Our findings indicate that U.S. newspaper coverage of food nanotechnology is relatively modest in terms of how often it has been covered, its thematic diversity, and the level of journalistic expertise from which it was produced. To our knowledge, this is the first study to empirically assess journalistic coverage of food nanotechnology.
This study examines the effect of news priming, which refers to the media’s influence on the standards by which the public evaluates political figures. Linking survey data to an analysis of issue coverage, we look into whether television news in South Korea affects the way citizens evaluate the president. Our findings provided support for the priming hypothesis. There was a close correspondence between prominent issues in the news and important dimensions of presidential evaluation among the respondents. We also found that priming effects were largely a function of recent, rather than cumulative, news coverage. Finally, findings indicated that people with different levels of news exposure were responding to the media within different time frames.
Audiences for science and technology news in traditional news outlets are shrinking, and recent data suggest that citizens increasingly turn to online sources for information about emerging technologies, such as nanotechnology1. This raises a number of questions. How does the lay public approach this wealth of online information about nanotechnology? And what kinds of content are they likely to encounter based on these searches? Our results suggest that the terms audiences search for and the content they encounter during these searches increasingly shift the public debate about nanotechnology away from more economic or scientific considerations toward health and medical considerations.
Cultivation theory claims that individuals who watch a greater amount of television are more likely to accept the representation of reality as presented on television. This study introduces the variable of exposure diversity and attempts to investigate if the diversity of television channels viewed plays a significant role beyond the amount of television viewed in the cultivation of concern about environmental risks. Data from the 2002 annual Life Style Study conducted by Synovate for DDB-Chicago was paired with a corresponding content analysis of environmental television coverage. Ordinary-Least-Squares regression suggests that exposure diversity is associated with concern of environmental risks above and beyond both the effects of the amount of television watched and individual differences, suggesting the variable of exposure diversity holds promise for further explicating cultivation theory.
In this essay, we review research from the social sciences on how the public makes sense of and participates in societal decisions about science and technology. We specifically highlight the role of the media and public communication in this process, challenging the still dominant assumption that science literacy is both the problem and the solution to societal conflicts. After reviewing the cases of evolution, climate change, food biotechnology, and nanotechnology, we offer a set of detailed recommendations for improved public engagement efforts on the part of scientists and their organizations. We emphasize the need for science communication initiatives that are guided by careful formative research; that span a diversity of media platforms and audiences; and that facilitate conversations with the public that recognize, respect, and incorporate differences in knowledge, values, perspectives, and goals.