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Thursday, October 2, 2008

S. Holly Stocking & Lisa W. Holstein: "Manufacturing doubt: journalists' roles and the construction of ignorance in a scientific controversy"

First published on September 16, 2008

Public Understanding of Science, 2008; doi:10.1177/0963662507079373

Manufacturing doubt: journalists' roles and the construction of ignorance in a scientific controversy

S. Holly Stocking* (Associate professor, School of Journalism, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN, U.S.A.) and Lisa W. Holstein (An independent scholar in Columbus, OH, U.S.A.)

* To whom correspondence should be addressed.

In recent decades, corporate and special interests have developed a wide repertoire of methods to manufacture doubt about science that threatens their interests. In the case presented here, a trade association issued a rich assortment of rhetorical claims intended to sow public confusion about university studies that threatened to undermine its industry's activities. Journalists' use of these claims appeared to vary largely as a function of their perceptions of their journalistic roles and of their audiences, though their knowledge of science also appeared to play a role. Our findings offer insight into how and why reporters respond to rhetorical claims about scientific ignorance and uncertainty that actors use to discredit threatening science. In so doing, they contribute to growing scholarship on journalists' contributions to the social construction of ignorance in scientific controversies.

Link to abstract:

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