Sunday, April 30, 2006

Still little focus on risks in nano media coverage

In spite of early indications that coverage of nano risks has been on the rise since 2001, it seems that the relative amount of risk- and regulation-focused coverage is relatively stable. In fact, media coverage of nanotech continues to be framed in mostly positive terms around the economic and scientific benefits of the new technology. This is not too surprising, given that coverage is dominated by science writers (e.g., Rick Weiss at the Washington Post) and business writers (e.g., Barnaby Feder at the New York Times).

And even the sporadic flurry of articles about toxic bathroom sprays and potential brain damage in largemouth bass doesn’t seem to make much of a dent.

Here’s a quick analysis of Lexis Nexis I prepared for an upcoming talk. The percentage of articles devoted to risk(s) and regulation(s) seems to be fairly stable. What’s especially surprising is that even in the time periods where Magic Nano (see, for example, the nano|public posting from April 14, 2006) and the largemouth bass study (see Eva Oberdörster’s site) dominated nano coverage, we don’t see any spikes in the proportion of risk/regulation articles. This may change soon as the issue begins to appear on the radar of mainstream media outlets and conflict frames (corporate interests against consumer concerns) and episodic frames (impact of nanotech on individual consumers) will begin to dominate local TV newscasts and other human interest stories.