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

  title={Manufacturing doubt: journalists' roles and the construction of ignorance in a scientific controversy},
  author={S. Holly Stocking and Lisa Holstein},
  journal={Public Understanding of Science},
  pages={23 - 42}
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… 

Figures from this paper

Disagreements as a form of knowledge: How journalists address day-to-day conflicts between sources
Disagreements over facts, in which news sources are leading journalists in opposite directions, are an ultimate test of journalists’ knowledge, forcing them to develop their own understanding of the
Playing a crusader role or just playing by the rules? Role conceptions and role inconsistencies among environmental journalists
Environmental journalists have historically struggled between journalistic objectivity and environmental advocacy. But the roles they embrace are based not only on their individual conceptions but
Countering Expert Uncertainty: Rhetorical Strategies from the Case of Value-Added Modeling in Teacher Evaluation
This study investigates how uncertainty works in science policy debates by considering an unusual case: one in which uncertainty-based arguments for delay come from the scientific community, rather
Science journalists’ perceptions and attitudes to pseudoscience in Spain
The authors' data reveal not only a lack of editorial policies in regard to pseudoscience, but also the existence of a significant number of science journalists who make light of the potential threat implied by the pseudosciences in the media.
Environmental Storytelling: Negotiating Travelling Norms in Post-Socialist Journalism
This thesis explores the ways in which professional journalists in Bulgaria balance their normative commitments to society and democracy, and the increasing dominance of economic and market
Communicating scientific evidence: scientists’, journalists’ and audiences’ expectations and evaluations regarding the representation of scientific uncertainty
Abstract Although uncertainty is inherent in scientific research, it is an often neglected topic in public communication. In this article, we analyze how scientists and journalists think they should
Scientific evidence and mass media: Investigating the journalistic intention to represent scientific uncertainty
Computer-assisted telephone interviews with a representative sample of German science journalists indicate that beliefs about the coverage of other media, perceptions regarding scientific uncertainty of the main field of coverage, perceived expectations of the audience, past behavior, and gender were the predictors that most strongly affected the journalists’ intention to represent life sciences as more scientifically uncertain.
Mapping the minds of the mediators: The cognitive frames of climate journalists from five countries
The study maps the minds of climate journalists from five different countries and identifies five cognitive frames that vary between attributing the responsibility for climate change to lobbying and national interests, blaming consumerist culture and the capitalist system, and expressing technological optimism.
Effects of politicization on the practice of science.
Journalists and conflicts of interest in science: beliefs and practices
Amidst reports of science news omitting key information regarding financial ties in scien- tific research, the present study surveyed the practices of health and science journalists in the USA. We


Newspaper coverage of maverick science: creating controversy through balancing
How do journalists portray the ideas of maverick scientists to the general public? Are mavericks portrayed as credible scientific sources? Do the stories written by journalists function to merely
The news paradigm and the ideology of objectivity: A socialist at the wall street journal
This study examines the news paradigm as an occupational ideology whose major feature is the principle of objectivity, and the larger hegemonic function of that paradigm. An anomalous case is
Public uptake of science: a case for institutional reflexivity
This paper attempts to advance the notion of reflexivity as a key element of improving current understanding of the public understanding of science problem, and for improving the relations between
Objectivity as Strategic Ritual: An Examination of Newsmen's Notions of Objectivity
The newspapermen studied believe they may mitigate such continual pressures as deadlines, possible libel suits, and anticipated reprimands of superiors by being able to claim that their work is
Suppression of Environmental Science
As environmental issues grow in economic significance and as science takes on increasing importance in influencing public opinion and resolving environmental policy debates, suppression of environmental science has become increasingly common.
Science and the sociology of knowledge
The major contributors to the sociology of knowledge have agreed that the conclusions of science depend on social action only in a very limited sense. This view is examined critically and it is
Decline of a paradigm? Bias and objectivity in news media studies
This essay outlines emerging empirical, methodological, and epistemolog‐ical challenges to several key assumptions associated with conventional research on news bias. These assumptions are: (1) the
Three Fragments From a Sociologist's Notebooks: Establishing the Phenomenon, Specified Ignorance, and Strategic Research Materials
This occasionally biographical paper deals with three cognitive and social patterns in the practice of science (not 'the scientific method’). The first, “establishing the phenomenon,” involves the
Communicating uncertainty: media coverage of new and controversial science.
Exploring the interactions that swirl around scientific uncertainty and its coverage by the mass media, this volume breaks new ground by looking at these issues from three different perspectives:
Global Spin - The Corporate Assault On Environmentalism
Global Spin reveals the sophisticated techniques used by powerful conservative forces to change the way the public and politicians think about the environment. Large corporations are using their