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As the emerging field of nanotechnology enters the public consciousness, mass media play an important role in shaping public attitudes about the new science. But newspapers, the Internet and television do so in significantly different ways, says Dietram Scheufele, a professor of life sciences communication at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
In a paper published in the current Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly, Scheufele and Chul-joo Lee of the University of Pennsylvania's Annenberg School for Communication find that newspapers and the Internet help people better understand nanotechnology research, but television news accounts have a more emotional effect.
While television promotes public acceptance of nanotechnology, it does so by creating an air of deference to scientific authority, with little effect on viewers' understanding of the science, the authors write. Scheufele suggests the brief time allotted to television news segments and its focus on personal stories, rather than in-depth scientific explanations, may be insufficient for promoting understanding of the complex science.
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