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Subject: AEJ 03 TaylorK SCI How newspapers frame stem cell research
From: Elliott Parker <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:AEJMC Conference Papers <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Wed, 1 Oct 2003 07:48:05 -0400

text/plain (854 lines)

Promise or peril:
How newspapers frame stem cell research

Kimberly R. Taylor
Master's Student - Science and Health Communication
College of Journalism and Communications
University of Florida

Submitted for:
AEJMC 2003 National Convention
Science Communication Interest Group
July 30-August 2, 2003
Kansas City, Missouri

Kimberly R. Taylor
University of  Florida
Box 14425
Gainesville, FL  32604-4425
(352) 392-0838
[log in to unmask]

 Promise or peril:
How newspapers from stem cell research


Newspapers have long been the public's dominant source of scientific
knowledge. In recent times, biotechnology issues have been featured with
growing frequency. The purpose of this study was to examine how issues
surrounding stem cell research have been portrayed in two major newspapers.
A textual analysis was performed on 49 articles published from August 2000
through September 2001, using both qualitative and quantitative methods.
The analysis found that a frame of uncertainty dominated coverage.

 Promise or peril:
How newspapers from stem cell research

Promise or peril:
How newspapers from stem cell research


The area of human stem cell research has been a hot news topic since its
public debut in November 1998 when Dr. James A. Thomson, a developmental
biologist at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, first reported the
isolation of human embryonic stem (ES) cells. This and subsequent research
in the field has received extensive coverage, namely because of the great
potential of stem cell research and the inherent controversies surrounding it.

Unlike other cells in the human body, stem cells are "the human body's
primordial master cells" (Stolberg, 2001). They are unique in their ability
to transform into a wide variety of cell types and to renew themselves
almost limitlessly. From a basic research perspective stem cells can help
scientists gain greater understanding of cell division and embryonic
development, providing insight into critical topics such as how cancer
cells spread and multiply. Stem cells could also prove useful as a way to
test new therapeutic drugs prior to animal or human testing.

In addition to broadening scientific knowledge, stem cells have the
potential to be used directly for therapeutic purposes. The ability of stem
cells to transform into just about any specific cell type makes them
capable of repairing or replacing cells or tissues that have been damaged
or destroyed. Researchers suggest that stem cell research could ultimately
lead to cures for diseases and disabilities such as Parkinson's disease,
Alzheimer's disease, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, spinal cord injury and
many more.

However, this potential panacea has been mired in ethical and moral
concerns. Although the great majority of patient advocacy groups and the
scientific community support stem cell research, numerous conservative
groups oppose it. This includes abortion rights opponents, the Catholic
Church, and several Republican leaders of Congress. Many have voiced
concern over the sources of embryonic stem cells used for research. There
is also concern that we are "playing God" and that embryonic stem cell
research will lead us down a slippery slope ending in the cloning of humans.

It should be noted that some members of these conservative groups oppose
embryonic stem cell research but support adult stem cell research. A basic
tenet of many religions is to heal and to prevent suffering; adult stem
cell research is a way to potentially cure diseases without the need to
sacrifice embryonic tissue to do so. Unfortunately, recent evidence
suggests that adult stem cells do not have the same versatility as
embryonic stem cells and will not offer the same therapeutic potential.

Still other members of conservative groups are proponents of both adult and
embryonic stem cell research, despite their existing opposition to
abortion. For example, Senators Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Strom Thurmond
(R-S.C.) support embryonic stem cell research and argue that "it would be
anti-life not to pursue it" (Pianin, 2001). It seems that personal
experiences can trigger these deviances from party values. Former Senator
Connie Mack (R-FL), a self-proclaimed pro-life Republican, and his family
have been profoundly touched by cancer. He sees embryonic stem cell
research as a way to free patients from the wrath of devastating diseases.
This blurring of party lines has only added to the uncertainty and
indecision plaguing the debate over stem cell research.

Background on stem cell research

For many years, scientists studying human development did so via animals.
This early research revealed a new class of cells capable of developing
into any cell type in the body, dubbed "pluripotent" stem cells. In 1998,
researchers were able to isolate and grow human pluripotent stem cells in
the laboratory. Subsequent work has shown that these cells indeed have the
capability of developing into nearly any cell or tissue type in the body,
hinting at great possibilities for therapeutic applications.

Pluripotent stem cells namely come from embryonic or fetal tissue.
Embryonic stem cells (ES cells) are retrieved from a group of cells known
as the inner cell mass (part of the blastocyst) about four to five days
after an embryo's fertilization. These cells can differentiate from their
current unspecialized state into virtually any type of cell or tissue. The
first possible source of such cells is surplus embryos that are a
by-product of in vitro fertilization (IVF) labs. The second potential
source is uniting donated eggs and sperm to create embryos directly in the
lab. A third potential source of embryonic stem cells is a process called
somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT), also known as therapeutic cloning.
Here, genetic material from a body cell is transplanted into an egg cell
that has had all of its genetic information removed. This technique is
often referred to as cloning because the resulting embryo is genetically
identical to the original body cell. The final source of pluripotent stem
cells is the embryonic germ (body) cells that can be taken from aborted
fetuses. Under the right laboratory conditions, embryonic stem cells can
reproduce indefinitely, a trait not shared by adult stem cells.

Adult stem cells are undifferentiated cells found in specialized tissue,
such as the blood or brain. These can yield specialized cell types, though
in a much more limited fashion. Adult stem cells can typically replicate
for the life of the organism but do not share the same infinite ability as
embryonic stem cells. Despite these inherent differences, media coverage
does not always discern between embryonic and adult stem cell research.
This may serve to complicate the public's understanding and attitudes
toward the already charged discussions about stem cell research.

Embryonic stem cell research hinges on various ethical dilemmas. Many
conservative and religious groups argue that once an egg is fertilized, the
resulting embryo should be considered a human being. This is much the same
controversy that has swirled around the issue of abortion. The American
Life League sees the embryo as "the tiniest person", worth standing up for
and defending (Toner, 2001). Opponents are concerned not only about the use
of existing embryos left over from in vitro fertilization, but also about
the creation of embryos expressly for research purposes. Pope John Paul II
refers to the latter as "an evil akin to euthanasia and infanticide"
(Stanley, 2001). President Bush said that he recoils at the idea of
"creating life for our own convenience" (Charo, 2001). Additional concerns
exist that this will only be the beginning of a "Frankenscience" that
ultimately will lead to cloning humans.

Proponents, on the other hand, point out that many naturally fertilized
embryos fail to implant in the uterus and thus never have the capability of
developing into a human life. This argument is also extended to embryos
generated in fertility clinics and which are inviable and will never result
in life. Often, hopeful parents end up with more frozen embryos than they
will have implanted. Proponents argue that these should be available for ES
cell research since most otherwise will be discarded.

Certain opponents of ES cell research have argued that adult stems hold
just as much promise. However, recent scientific articles have shown that
this may not be the case.  It may only be ES cells that have full pluripotency.

Much of the media's coverage has attentively focused on the potential
risks. Risk is by no means a new concept to our society:

"Risks to health, safety and the environment abound in the world and people
cope as best they can. But before action can be taken to control, reduce or
eliminate risks, decisions must be made about which risks are important and
which risks can be safely ignored" (Covello and Johnson, 1987, p. vii).

        Various stakeholders are typically involved in such discussions of risk.
In this instance, involved groups have included the scientific community,
federal government, political groups, patient advocacy groups, and
religious groups. The important questions to be asked are, "Whose voice
rises above all others," and, "How will this affect public opinion and
policymaking?" In great part, the media and their framing of the issue
influence these outcomes. According to Bridges and Nelson (2000), "Framing
theorists suggest that the way an issue is presented – the frame –
especially through the media, can affect public perceptions of the issue"
(p. 100).

Framing Theory

Framing is a tool used by the media to present selective elements of an
issue or event and in doing so, help swing the reader's opinion to align
with a specific perspective. Indeed, Entman noted that framing can be
distilled to selection and salience:

"To frame is to select some aspects of a perceived reality and make them
more salient in a communicating text, in such a way as to promote a
particular problem definition, causal interpretation, moral evaluation,
and/or treatment recommendation for the item described" (Entman, 1993, p.56).

Hertog and McLeod (2001) characterized the "importance of frames and
framing in social process, especially in defining and channeling social
controversy" (p. 139). Frames can help the public to understand new and
otherwise complex issues by capitalizing on widely accepted dogmas and
shared perspectives. Frames reduce issues to the familiar, creating
"cultural rather than cognitive phenomena" (p. 141).  Frames might
reference myths, narratives, or metaphors, or simply connect a reader with
"the morals, ideals, stories, and definition of her culture" (p. 141).  In
all, it is their widespread recognition that gives frames such power.

Hertog and McLeod note that although framing analysis has been accepted as
a useful research tool for several decades, it is far from being an exact
science. A "wide array of theoretical approaches and methods" are utilized
and the field has yet to settle on "a core theory or even a basic set of
propositions, nor has a widely accepted methodological approach emerged"
(Hertog and McLeod, 2001, p. 139). The current study will examine several
specific framing methods.

Framing methods can be distilled to such basic elements as the language
that journalists use to describe events (Edelman, 1988). Indeed, "the use
of baby versus fetus signals a very different approach to the topic of
abortion" (Hertog and McLeod, 2001). We are a culture that relies heavily
on language. Yet complex scientific issues pose a great challenge to the
public, who often cannot comprehend the associated terminology. Hertog and
McLeod (2001) echoed this by saying:

"all communication is dependent upon shared meaning among communicators.
The speaker and the audience must approach words, icons, ideas, gestures,
and so on in an identical fashion in order to communicate. The greater the
difference in their individual understanding of symbols, the less able they
are to communicate" (p. 141).

        Also interesting to examine is how frequently statements from
stakeholders emerged in the general media. Andsagar and Smiley (1998)
stated, "The news media tend to rely on frames that the most influential
policy actors provide, which will often render large institutions the most
influential policy actors" (p. 183). This ultimately can have great
influence on policy because "when the resonance process is complete, one
frame comes to dominate debate, and decision makers set public policy to
conform to it" (Miller and Reichert, 2001, p.113).

Research Questions

Specific research questions included:

Research Question 1: How has the elite national print media framed stem
cell research?
Research Question 2: What frames dominate the elite media's coverage of
stem cell research?
Research Question 3: With what frequency did the media cite key stakeholders?
Research Question 4: To what degree have the issues regarding embryonic
stem cells and adult stem been differentiated?
Research Question 5: How frequently was the process of human cloning cited
alongside stem cell research? Was it differentiated as a separate issue or
lumped together?
Research Question 6: How frequently did coverage mention stances taken by
other nations or allude to the threat of the United States being left behind?


This study examined the way in which issues surrounding stem cell research
have been portrayed in major newspapers. Newspapers were selected over
other media because they are the public's dominant source for science
knowledge (Blum, 1997).

The New York Times and the Washington Post were examined. Since the issue
is one that has national and even international importance, The New York
Times was selected for its reputation, breadth and overall depth of
readership. The Washington Post was selected for its attention to political
and legislative issues. As the predominant paper in Washington D.C.,
policymakers are apt to read it and to be influenced in how they respond to
current issues.

The coverage time frame was August 25, 2000 through September 19, 2001. The
start date coincided with the Clinton administration's removal of the ban
on federal funding for embryonic stem cell research. The study end date
extended one month past the Bush administration's August 19, 2000
reimposition of the ban. This month-long period following the ban allowed
inclusion of articles that discussed the controversy over the limited
number of existing ES cell lines, their relative viability, and the
subsequent determination that adult stem cells might not hold the promise
once believed.

The Lexis-Nexis Academic online database was used to identify articles. The
database was screened using the term "stem cell" and the database's
"headline, lead paragraph(s), terms" search parameter. News, feature
stories, and opinions/editorials were all included in this study because
the researcher felt these types of articles would be most likely to include
detailed coverage of stem cell research issues. General letters to the
editor were not included.

Articles of less than 500 words were excluded since the researcher felt
shorter stories would not provide enough material to ascertain the framing
of this complex issue adequately. The initial sampling yielded 108 articles
from The New York Times and 92 articles from the Washington Post.  A sample
size of n = 50 was desired, so the earliest article and every fourth
article thereafter was selected from each group ( [108+92]/50). This
yielded 27 articles from The New York Times and 24 articles from The
Washington Post. During analysis it was determined that one article from
each publication was only weakly related to stem cell research. These
articles were dropped, leaving 26 articles remaining from The New York
Times and 23 articles from The Washington Post.

Individual articles were the unit of analysis. Each was coded using a
standard coding worksheet that examined: (1) sources of direct and
paraphrased quotations; (2) general references to shareholder groups; (3)
the definition and characterization of stem cell research and its
associated implications; (4) utilization of key terminology; (5)
delineation of adult and embryonic stem cells; (6) references to human
cloning; and (7) references to other nations, namely their stances on stem
cell research.


Research Question 1: How has the elite national print media framed stem
cell research?

Several frames permeated the media's coverage of the subject. The
researcher dubbed these the "kill to cure", "miracle cure", and
"uncertainty" frames. Although each frame had its own key terminology, a
central element among all was the sanctity of human life.

The "kill to cure" frame was more prevalent in articles citing conservative
groups and opponents of stem cell research. Groups cited in the articles
included: abortion rights opponents, conservative Republican members of
Congress, the Catholic Church and other religious groups. These opponents
argue that "a tragic coarsening of consciences" makes it "permissible to
kill so long as we intend to bring good from it." They counter this with by
restating the basic principle of medicine, "to do no harm".

Despite the fact that stem cell research could yield promising new
therapies, opponents of stem cell research maintain that it is morally and
ethically wrong to use human embryonic tissue for research. This frame
describes stem cells as "nascent" and "innocent" human life that must be
protected. The sacrifice of these "unborn embryos" and "tiny human beings"
only "devalues and violates human life". Family Research Council president,
Kenneth Connor, wrote that "no commercial gain or scientific benefit can
justify the slaughter of the innocent" (Connor, 2001).

  An element of fear is introduced in this frame through the use of
specific terminology. One Washington Post editorial referenced the human
experimentation conducted at Auschwitz and then suggested that stem cell
research could lead to scientists "playing God," using of cloning "to
provide spare human parts". The warning of "fetal farming" also persists,
suggesting that the overwhelming demand for embryos would result in
for-profit businesses to breed new embryos for research. It would be
interesting to examine the stance these same groups take towards
third-party egg donations to infertile couples. It is likewise feasible
that demand for eggs could result in the growth of the industry, albeit for
creating rather than destroying life. Either way, humans are creating life
through science and potentially "playing God".

An alternate frame was the "miracle cure" frame, which emphasized the
promise of stem cell research. This frame was favored in articles relying
heavily on sources from within the scientific and academic communities. The
quotes from scientists and ethicists are used to demonstrate that although
there are strong moral and ethical considerations, the ends of stem cell
research justify the means. Millions of ailing Americans could one day
benefit from the potential therapies generated from stem cell research.

This point is reiterated through the use of common-ground stories, namely
from politicians and such well-known individuals as Nancy Reagan,
Christopher Reeve and Michael J. Fox. These quotes offer personal examples
of families touched by devastating diseases. This serves to build rapport
with readers, demonstrating that just about everyone will have a family
member or friend who might benefit from the advances in stem cell research.

Specific phrases used in this frame include: "promise of miracle cures";
"nascent but promising field"; "fountain of youth"; "magical power";
"limitless potential"; "dazzling array (of new treatments)"; "stem-cell
revolution"; "so versatile"; "potential to cure disease and relieve
suffering"; and "breakthrough therapies and cures".

The "miracle cure" frame also attempted to downplay the moral arguments by
addressing the concept of when life truly begins. Critical to this argument
is whether embryos are sentient beings with souls.  One Washington Post
article cited that "the idea that an embryo has a soul is a matter of
religious faith, not science", and implied that this question should not
stand in the way of federal funding (Silver, 2001). This frame maintains
that a key distinction exists between  the origin of a human being, an
embryological question, and the origin of a human person, a philosophical
question (Irving 1999). Indeed, "no court has ever suggested that they
(embryos) have human rights and it would be unethical to protect them at a
sick person's expense" (Weiss, 2001).

This frame also used carefully selected terminology. Rather than imply that
the tissue necessary for this research was obtained from a controversial
source (i.e. a fetus), this frame used such phrases as: "a microscopic ball
of cells"; "activated embryo"; and "blastocyst".

The "excess embryos" frame was often a complementary frame used in articles
exhibiting the "miracle cure" frame. The "excess embryos" frame was
grounded in the overproduction of embryos for infertility treatments. Many
embryos generated for IVF are defective and would never be viable. Other
times, couples undergoing IVF simply end up with more embryos than they
need. This frame emphasizes that stem cell research would be able to
utilize these embryos, saving them from certain destruction and unnecessary

The most widely used frame was the "uncertainty" frame. Webster's
dictionary lists such synonyms for uncertainty as doubt, dubiety,
skepticism, and mistrust. Certainly all of these nuances permeated the
media's coverage of stem cell research during the period of time that
President Bush deliberated on what policy to set or immediately thereafter.

Earlier coverage using the uncertainty frame focused on the difficulty in
sorting out the moral and ethical concerns over stem cell research.
Conservative groups opposed to stem cell research argued for preserving the
sanctity of human life and protesting the destruction or creation of human
embryos for research purposes. However supporters contested that:

  "when it comes to biology, words like "destruction," "creation," "embryo"
and even "life" and "death" are ambiguous. Scientists understand this
ambiguity to be a reflection of the complexity of living things. Meanwhile,
both advocates and opponents of stem cell research are using that ambiguity
to their best advantage" (Silver, 2001).

Adding to the confusion inherent in this frame was the repeated citations
of conservative Republicans crossing party lines. Both Orrin Hatch and
Strom Thurmond support embryonic stem cell research. In doing so they seem
to be acting in opposition to their anti-abortion views and thus aligning
themselves with liberal groups in support of stem cell research. This is
not unheard of since "social groups may exhibit different ideologies and
yet apply the same frame to a particular topic (Hertog and McLeod, 2001,

Another element to this frame was Bush's continued indecision over whether
or not to allow federal funding of stem cell research. This dubiety drove
many in the media to describe how President Bush's "divided administration"
was grappling with the "agony", "conundrum", and "quandary" of the
"national debate." This led some to suggest that Bush's "credibility…is
open to question."

During his campaign, Bush vowed to protect the sanctity of human life and
reinforce pro-life values. Conservatives wondered why it was taking Bush so
long to declare what they hoped would be a moratorium on embryonic stem
cell research. This "cat and mouse" game led to skepticism on part of the
media and perhaps the public.  The media speculated about the delay,
suggesting that it was simply "spin, an effort to justify a decision
already made" (Cohen, 2001). Indeed, when Bush finally did issue his
decision, the media yet again expressed its doubt. Frank Bruni, of The New
York Times wrote, "his speech was like a Rorschach" leaving Bush "future
wiggle room" (Bruni, 2001).

Later coverage featuring the uncertainty frame highlighted concern over
whether Bush's decision provided enough latitude to maximize the potential
of stem cell research. Articles expressed repeated skepticism on whether
the 64 existing cell lines would be sufficient. Proponents of stem cell
research felt Bush's "vision is shown to be too narrow". However,
conservative groups felt that Bush had strayed too far from his party's
pro-life values, calling for a complete ban on all embryonic stem cell

Research Question 2: What frames dominate the elite media's coverage of
stem cell research?
Table 1. Frames sorted by publication.

The Washington Post (23 articles)
The New York Times (26 articles)
Miracle cure (primary)
Clone and kill (primary)
Excess embryo (primary)
Uncertainty (primary)
Other (primary)
Miracle cure (secondary)
Clone and kill (secondary)
Excess embryo (secondary)
Uncertainty (secondary)
Other (secondary)
Table 2. Frames sorted by article type.

News (38 articles)
Feature (1 article)
Editorial/Opinion (10 articles)
Miracle cure (primary)
Clone and kill (primary)
Excess embryo (primary)
Uncertainty (primary)
Other (primary)
Miracle cure (secondary)
Clone and kill (secondary)
Excess embryo (secondary)
Uncertainty (secondary)

Research Question 3: With what frequency did the media cite key stakeholders?

  Table 3. New York Times articles citing stakeholder groups.

Number of articles with direct quotations
Number of articles with paraphrased quotations
Total number of direct quotations within articles
Total number of paraphrased quotations within articles
Religious groups
Scientific groups
Patients' advocacy groups
Conservative advocacy groups
Historical figures

Table 4. Washington Post articles citing stakeholder groups.

Number of articles with direct quotations
Number of articles with paraphrased quotations
Total number of direct quotations within articles
Total number of paraphrased quotations within articles
Religious groups
Scientific groups
Patients' advocacy groups
Conservative advocacy groups
Historical figures

The data includes direct or paraphrased quotes of specific individuals or
organized groups. Sources associated with scientific organizations included
academic stem cell experts, scientists, and ethicists, as well as the
National Institutes of Health, National Academy of Sciences, National
Institute of Medicine, etc. Historical figures included Albert Einstein,
Jonas Salk, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and others.

Research Question 4: To what degree have the issues regarding embryonic
stem cells and adult stem been differentiated?

Table 5. Delineation of adult stem cell research from embryonic stem cell

The Washington Post (23 articles)
The New York Times (26 stories)

Research Question 5: How frequently was the process of human cloning cited
alongside stem cell research? Was it differentiated as a separate issue or
lumped together?

Table 6. References to human cloning.

The Washington Post (23 articles)
The New York Times (26 stories)

Research Question 6: How frequently did coverage mention stances taken by
other nations or allude to the threat of the United States being left behind?

Table 7. References to other nations.

The Washington Post (23 articles)
The New York Times (26 stories)

 Promise or peril:
How newspapers from stem cell research


Research Question 1: How has the elite national print media framed stem
cell research?
Research Question 2: What frames dominate the elite media's coverage of
stem cell research?

As described in the results above, three frames have been characterized to
describe the media's coverage of stem cell research. The majority of
articles from both papers relied on "uncertainty" as a primary frame. This
frame was most strongly present in news stories. This indicates the
enormous amount of controversy swirling around the issue. Rather than take
a stance, many of these articles would simply give equal weight to both
sides of the story. While it is important that the media provide accurate
and complete information on a subject, declaring support or opposition for
an issue can help clarify ongoing debate and bring potential resolution.
Hertog and McLeod (2001) refer to this as the resolution phase.

The other frames that appeared were the "clone and kill" and "miracle cure"
frames. Each relied heavily on quotations from polar sources. "Clone and
kill" favored conservative sources such as the Catholic Church and abortion
rights opponents while "miracle cure" relied on more liberal sources such
as academics and patient advocacy groups.

Frame use shifted over time. Many earlier articles utilized the "miracle
cure", likely as a direct result of the newly available federal funds for
stem cell research. This then shifted to "uncertainty" as a conservative,
pro-life Republican president prepared to take office. Bush's extended
debate over whether or not to allow federal funding only prolonged the use
of the "uncertainty" frame. It was at this point that the "clone and kill"
frame arose, as opponents of ES cell research voiced their opposition of ES
cell research funding. Media coverage following Bush's decision was also
dominated by the "uncertainty" frame. Numerous articles debated whether
what Bush allowed would be enough. Concerns arose whether adult stem held
the same promise as ES cells. Others wondered if the 64 existing cell lines
eligible for federal funding would prove viable and readily available to

Research Question 3: With what frequency did the media cite key stakeholders?

The New York Times relied most heavily on scientific groups for both direct
(14 of 26 articles - 53.8%) and paraphrased quotations (10 of 26 articles –
38.5%). Scientific groups also constituted the greatest number of overall
quotations in The New York Times for both direct (37 of 91 quotations –
40.7%) and paraphrased quotations (23 of 38 quotations – 60.5%).

Conversely, The Washington Post relied most heavily on government sources.
Direct quotations from government groups were present in 60.9% of the
articles (14 of 23 articles). Paraphrased quotations were present in 17.4%
of the articles (4 of 23 articles). Government sources also dominated the
total number of direct quotations with 38.8% (26 of 67 quotations).
Government groups tied with scientific groups for total number of
paraphrased quotations (each 36.8% - 7 of 19 quotations).

It can be suggested that The Post featured higher coverage of government
sources because of its location and reader base.

Research Question 4: To what degree have the issues regarding embryonic
stem cells and adult stem been differentiated?

        No significant difference existed between how each paper delineated adult
stem cell research from embryonic stem cell research, with each one close
to 34%. It is somewhat surprising that this rate was so low. As described
in the background section, large differences exist between embryonic and
adult stem cells, namely in source and potential for research. This lack of
delineation could lead to greater confusion of the issues among readers.

Research Question 5: How frequently was the process of human cloning cited
alongside stem cell research? Was it differentiated as a separate issue or
lumped together?

        The Washington Post referenced human cloning in 21.7% of its articles (5
of 23 articles) while The New York Times referenced it in 34.6% of its
articles (9 of 26 articles). Most articles that cited human cloning made a
brief attempt to differentiate it from stem cell research. However, this
could have been done in a much more exacting manner in a greater number of
articles. This could have helped stem some of the controversy about whether
to fund stem cell research.

Research Question 6: How frequently did coverage mention stances taken by
other nations or allude to the threat of the United States being left behind?

The Washington Post referenced other nations in 8.7% of its articles (2 of
23 articles) while The New York Times referenced them in 23.1% of its
articles (6 of 26 articles). Overall, it did not seem that either paper was
overly concerned with how the efforts in the U.S. will stack up to those of
other countries. This is somewhat disturbing as the U.S. risks getting left
behind if it deliberates too long on this subject.


Overall, the topic of stem cell research framing in the media carries great
importance. As mentioned earlier, stem cell research has the potential to
transform the medical field entirely. Despite the previously discussed
ethical risks surrounding the advance of stem cells research it is equally
important to consider what will occur if we do no move forward in this
area. This idea is echoed by Chris MacDonald, an ethicist at Dalhousie
University, who said, "In the field of biotechnology, nothing short of
inaction can guarantee that we won't make decisions that end up seeming, in
retrospect, to have been mistakes" (MacDonald, 2001). Overbearing policy
could greatly hinder scientific progress, preventing therapies and cures
for a vast array of medical conditions and diseases from ever being
realized.  Conversely, it is possible that these discoveries would still be
made, albeit by scientists outside the U.S. If so, it might take longer for
potential therapies to be implemented; therapies developed outside the U.S.
could trigger greater skepticism and a longer review process by the FDA. In
all, it is important to study the specific framing of this issue as it has
the power to influence the subsequent policy decisions.

             This topic lends itself to further exploration. It likely
would be useful to study the framing of elite media in other regions of the
U.S. (Chicago, Los Angeles, etc.), rather than just the East Coast. Because
the papers examined in this study tended to frame the topic in a more
progressive and liberal manner, a study of media in more traditionally
conservative climates like the Midwest and the South could yield different
results. It would also be interesting to study elite media in other
countries, including such countries as England and Sweden where the
governments already have tackled the thorny issues surrounding stem cell
research and have introduced regulatory measures and legislation.
 Promise or peril:
How newspapers from stem cell research


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