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Communication and Medicine

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Media(ted) fabrications: How the science–media symbiosis helped ‘sell’ cord banking

Carolyn Michelle
Published Online: 2006-06-19 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/CAM.2006.006


This paper considers the problematic role of the science–media symbiosis in the dissemination of misleading and emotionally manipulative information regarding services offered by CordBank, New Zealand's only umbilical cord blood banking facility. As this case study illustrates, the growing reliance of health and science reporters on the knowledge capital of medical specialists, biogenetic researchers, and scientists potentially enhances the ability of ‘expert’ sources to set the agenda for media representations of emerging medical and scientific developments, and may undermine the editorial independence of journalists and editors, many of whom in this case failed to critically evaluate deeply problematic claims regarding the current and future benefits of cord banking. Heavy reliance on established media frames of anecdotal personalization and technoboosterism also reinforced a proscience journalistic culture in which claims by key sources were uncritically reiterated and amplified, with journalistic assessments of the value of cord banking emphasizing potential benefits for individual consumers. It is argued that use of these media frames potentially detracts from due consideration of the broader social, ethical, legal, and health implications of emerging biomedical developments, along with the professional, personal, and increasingly also financial interests at stake in their public promotion, given the growing commercialization of biogenetic technologies.

Keywords: science journalism; science–media symbiosis; stem cells; cord banking; anecdotal personalization; technoboosterism

About the article

Carolyn Michelle

Carolyn Michelle convenes the Women's and Gender Studies program at the University of Waikato and lectures in the Department of Societies and Cultures. Her previous research has been in the areas of gender and media, documentary representations of domestic violence (with C. Kay Weaver), and assisted reproductive technologies.

1Address for correspondence: Department of Societies and Cultures, University of Waikato, Private Bag 3105, Hamilton, New Zealand.

Published Online: 2006-06-19

Published in Print: 2006-05-01

Citation Information: Communication & Medicine, Volume 3, Issue 1, Pages 55–68, ISSN (Online) 1613-3625, ISSN (Print) 1612-1783, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/CAM.2006.006.

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