Public Forum: Stem Cells and the Media

Stem cells, politics, “fairness,” and what one participant termed “the disintegration of traditional journalism,” were all on the bill at HSCI’s recent Public Forum on Stem Cells and the Media.

The panel, which included four esteemed science journalists, discussed the challenges and complexities faced by the mainstream media in covering developments in stem cell research.

Panelists included Dan Vergano, a science writer for USA Today and a Nieman Fellow at Harvard, William Saletan, a national correspondent for Slate magazine, Mary Carmichael, a Newsweek general editor based in Boston, and Gideon Gil, Health and Science Editor for the Boston Globe.

Moderated by B.D. Colen, Public Information Officer for HSCI, panel discussants highlighted the propensity of the mainstream media to cover stem cell research as a political, not scientific, issue. The panel also discussed the difficulty of reporting on original research that has yet to be replicated or verified by other scientists.

According to the panelists, because of the often complex scientific, ethical and political consequences of developments in stem cell research, reporters have an ever important responsibility to educate themselves as well as the general public.