Saturday, April 18, 2009

“Hello Dolly”

Humanity is inherently afraid of the unknown, the different. When Dolly the sheep was born through cloning in 1996, no one knew how to react. The media formed the public’s opinion of the Dolly discovery and unfortunately, their bias and the affect it had on the public’s opinion greatly affected the ability for more cloning research in the future.
Dolly, the first successfully cloned sheep, was “born” on July 5th, 1996 from a somatic cell through the process of nuclear transfer. The discovery was made by Ian Wilmut and Keith Campbell. Other scientists at the Roslin Institute in Edinburgh, Scotland where the experiment took place were unsure of how to react to the findings or whether to make them public so they were hidden for months before released to the media. The public reacted with more concern about the moral implications than praise for the scientific significance of the discovery itself. The media played a huge role in shaping the publics view, and with condescending and sarcastic coverage, the public simply followed suit.
The first article I looked at was “Hello Dolly”, a piece that appeared on page A of the San Francisco Examiner. The article carries a sarcastic undertone and finishes with:
“Although Wilmut found ‘no clinical reason’ to clone humans, there's also no clinical reason for, say, playing major league baseball. We can now assume that it's only a shake of a lamb's tale (no more puns!) before the Giants scrape a few cells from the arm of Willie Mays and make a championship team of him.”

Reporting this as news is appalling, not only to the Examiner itself but to journalism standards in general. Written with a skeptical bias, this piece only further perpetuated society’s negative views of this discovery.
The next article I examined was a New York Times article that seems so unlike the New York Times; it has fallen into the subjective and obnoxious category. The article is titled “With Cloning of a Sheep, the Ethical Ground Shifts” and though it gives a lot of information, the slant of information is obvious as is the bias behind the writing. It starts out with “When a scientist whose goal is to turn animals into drug factories…” which is a presumption all by itself. Is this something the doctor has been quoted to have said? No, sadly, it’s the writer’s opinion rearing its ugly head. The article goes on to talk about the way in which Dolly was cloned and ways in which this could be harmful or beneficial to society. He makes the implication that cloning is simply a step away from genetic engineering and he did this probably knowing full well that genetic engineering was a hot button issue of the time and thought of as highly controversial.
Both of these articles represent the bias of the time and how the media’s view of an event can shape the publics opinion of it. If the media had offered a fair view of cloning, perhaps cloning research would’ve been allowed sooner and who knows what types of cures we may have been able to come up with. It is an example of a time when newspapers failed to question that status quo and reinforced society’s fears and ideals instead of challenging them.

1 comment:

  1. This was a very interesting post. I have to admit, I only remember hearing about Dolly vaguely when I was just a kid. But I really liked how you started your post with some detail and insight of the history of what exactly happened. When I first read what the San Francisco Examiner, I was shocked that a discovery such as cloning was taken as a complete joke. I honestly couldn't believe that the article was considered news. The New York Times article was the same, all opinion. With the negative opinions and attitudes of these papers it gave no support for the science of cloning to develop properly because the public's opinion was being brainwashed by articles such as these. I thought you did really good on this post, very informative and balanced.