Romanian Media Coverage on Bioethics. the Issue of Stem Cells

Article excerpt

In the last decades, scientific developments are largely discussed and debated mainly at the media level. Based on the agenda setting model, the importance of a certain theme is given by the frequency of its appearances in mass-media. Within this context, this paper focuses on the issue of stem cells and its media coverage in Romania. Using content analysis of the most read national newspapers, the research aims to emphasize two relevant aspects: the stem cells issue is only partly visible in the written media and the debate between ethics and science is rather non-existent.

Key Words:

agenda setting, written media, stem cells, ethics, bioethics, Romanian newspapers

Introduction

In the last decades, scientific developments are largely discussed and debated. Mass-media is considered to be responsible for the quantity and quality of the information and for the approached subjects. Thus, based on the agenda setting model, the importance of a certain theme at the public level is given by the frequency of its appearances in mass-media.

Within this context, this paper deals with the issue of stem cells and its media coverage in Romania. Considering the opportunities that stem cells treatments implies, this research aims to measure how well media covers this subject and what are its main features. The issue of stem cells is considered to be extremely important mainly in the context in which 80% of the citizens consider that the problems of Romania are connected to health and medical problems.1

The support of the analysis is represented by the main national newspapers.2 The main research question of the paper is how the most important national newspapers deal with the issue of stem cells. Specifically, we are interested in two aspects. First, this paper aims to analyze the level of visibility that the issue of stem cells has in the written media. Second, within a more in depth study, this research puts forward the debate between ethics and science. Based on these two interests, we claim that the issue of stem cells is not only insufficiently discussed, but the traditional opposition between religion and science is not sufficiently debated either.

The issue of this research can be considered new and interesting mainly because an era of scientific discoveries has started and because people are becoming aware of its importance in daily life. Moreover, this paper aims to raise journalists' interest on writing more about the issue of stem cells and on the possibility of healing previously incurable diseases.

Theoretical Background

The Agenda-Setting theory comes to stress the importance of media in contemporary society and the influence it has both on the audience and on the politicians. Taking this into consideration, this model stresses the way media selects and structures its messages and questions the awareness of media responsibility. Moreover, it focuses both on the issues media insistently presents and on those that are overlooked. These are just a few questions that, even if not directly connected to the agenda model, are provoked by it. Agenda Setting is the process through which the public opinion and receivers in general are influenced their mental perception of reality by placing certain themes in the media, and by their place in the media presentation. Agenda Building is the process through which certain themes of diverse natures (political, economical, cultural, social etc.) are included on the media agenda and are specifically presented. Inter-media-Agenda-Setting is the process through which certain types of media are influenced by the thematic offer of other types in building the agenda.

The agenda model uses a complex methodology that allows relating objective reality and media reality. McCombs and Shaw, the authors of the initial model call the main themes and the secondary themes treated by the media major items and minor items respectively. …