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Horsepox and Hype: A Science Journalism Experiment


Horsepox and Hype: A Science Journalism Experiment

Kann, Taylor (2020) Horsepox and Hype: A Science Journalism Experiment. Masters thesis, Concordia University.

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This thesis utilized model-based test journalism (Amend, Capurro and Secko 2014) to study how synthetic biology was reported by science journalists within a hype context. It explored whether it was possible to create a new model of science journalism which was resistant to critiques of hype. Synthetic biology is a rapidly emerging field of scientific inquiry that seeks to engineer and redesign biological parts and organisms. Many definitions of ‘synthetic biology’ are found in scholarly literature. This thesis defines synthetic biology as “the design and construction of new biological parts, devices and systems, and the re-design of existing natural biological systems for useful purposes with a strong focus on engineering” (Bogner et al. 2014). This project limited its scope to textual journalism focused on synthetic biology vaccine research associated with the threat of bioterrorism. Bioterrorism is cited as a serious concern for harmful outcomes of synthetic biology, including the release of dangerous re-engineered pathogens (Schmidt et al. 2009) and is therefore sensitive to the issue of hype. Theoretically, this thesis built on past research into models of science journalism (Secko, Amend and Friday, 2012), expanding this work to address issues of hype in science journalism production. Methodologically, this thesis recruited four professional science journalists to create test stories that varied in their approach to hype, followed by analyzing how this journalism was read and perceived by non-specialist audience focus groups. The results show that the communication of synthetic biology could be improved moving forward by altering the criteria surrounding hype in textual journalism that was developed for this thesis to include issues of scientific language, purposes of research and intended uses of new technologies. The outcomes of this thesis will prove useful in the design of hype resistant guidelines that will help address the major challenge of misinformation in science journalism.

Divisions:Concordia University > Faculty of Arts and Science > Journalism
Item Type:Thesis (Masters)
Authors:Kann, Taylor
Institution:Concordia University
Degree Name:M.A.
Program:Digital Innovation in Journalism Studies
Date:August 2020
Thesis Supervisor(s):Secko, David
ID Code:987286
Deposited By: Taylor Kann
Deposited On:25 Nov 2020 16:29
Last Modified:25 Nov 2020 16:29
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