News about nanotechnology: a longitudinal framing analysis of newspaper reporting on nanotechnology.

This source preferred by Shelley Thompson

Authors: Thompson, S.

Governments and businesses around the world have invested billions of pounds in nanotechnology research and development, and more than a thousand consumer products which manufacturers claim to involve nanotechnology are currently on the market. As such, the applications from this emerging field of science and technology have the potential for great impact on individuals and society, making it a recurring subject of news reporting worldwide. Scholars say mainstream news media are the primary places in which citizens learn about science and technology, therefore creating opportunities for democratic debate about these topics. This thesis explores the ways in which nanotechnology is reported in order to understand how journalists strive to make sense of it for their audiences. It analyses 759 articles from two opinion-leading newspapers – The Guardian and The New York Times – in order to address the following research questions: How do journalists frame nanotechnology for their audiences? How do the characteristic features of the framing processes change over time? And to what extent does the reporting open opportunities for meaningful, democratic discussion around nanotechnology? To answer these questions, the research evaluates literature around the reporting of science and technology, in particular nanotechnology. Using quantitative and qualitative approaches to framing, this thesis finds the coverage is overwhelmingly positive in its treatment of nanotechnology, suggesting it closely aligns with the business and government interests. Additionally, claims about the potential benefits of nanotechnology are prioritised over risk claims in news articles, with the most common risk and benefit claims being those that are more likely to materialise decades into the future, if ever. Altogether, in failing to discuss applications and potential risks of nanotechnology without drawing on popular culture references limits the opportunity for meaningful, democratic discussion and debate.

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