News media coverage of the controversy surrounding recent attempts to insert creationism into public school science curricula—this time in the form of “intelligent design”—has generated miles of copy and hours of television footage. The quality of that reporting varies widely, depending on the media outlet. Often, reporters with no scientific training are assigned to report on evolution–creationism controversies, which inevitably leads to distortions of the relevant science. A misconceived concern for balance frequently results in equal time being accorded to biologists and creationists, creating the illusion of scientific equivalence. At other times, a clear bias toward creationism is revealed, especially on cable television. Focusing mainly on recent treatments, this article analyzes and critiques specific stories, as well as trends and patterns in coverage in newspapers, magazines, and television; it concludes with suggestions of ways in which scientists can be more effective in dealing with the media.
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Vol. 56 • No. 3