chapter  8
20 Pages

News Coverage of Cancer Research

Does Disclosure of Scientific Uncertainty Enhance Credibility?
By Ratcliff Chelsea L. , Jensen Jakob D. , Christy Katheryn , Crossley Kaylee , Krakow Melinda

The news media are recognized as an essential channel for communicating health research and recommendations to the public. News stories can educate lay audiences about methods for preventing a myriad of health risks, including cancer, which is the second leading cause of death among Americans. Prior research in the context of health journalism has identified a connection between perceived credibility and hedging. This chapter examines whether certain practices in journalism could be systematically lowering public perceptions of credibility with regard to cancer research reports. The inclusion of uncertainty in health news can take the form of hedging language, or presentation of the limitations and caveats of research findings. Yet research suggests that scientific uncertainty may be appreciated by lay audiences as well as the scientific community. Journalists are trusted as key translators of scientific research for the public. The news is an especially important avenue for educating people about cancer and other major health risks.