Since the invention of the printing press and the rapid progression of technology, it has become increasingly clear that the best way to reach the masses was through various media.
(Even before the printing press images, such as paintings and murals, were used to spread information deemed as important to the population, which generally could not read.) Along with revolutionary technology, of course, came revolutionary breakthroughs, particularly in science. Some breakthroughs would be perceived as exciting by the masses themselves, while others were sensationalized in efforts to make the readers interested. In this way it is important to make a foundational distinction – while journalism would primarily concern itself with what is new, science would remain focused on how the world works. Scientific journalism should, therefore, encompass both the new and the old. However, in the struggle to maximize publicity, much of the information is often aggrandized using the shock factor of carefully constructed titles as clickbait to entice viewers to read watered down information often completely unrelated to the original (science/subject/intent?)header. The danger that sensationalizing of science raises the question: How far from the hard facts is it possible to stray without jeopardizing the truth and metamorphosing actual science into a tabloid fairytale? While we should definitely combat the over sensationalization of scientific media, it is also critical to make scientific information broadly available to the public. People who are isolated from the spread of science-based news, especially those lacking an education in basic science, will be uneducated in scientific matters and therefore will not be able to fully understand life around them or make informed decisions on scientific matters.
This was exhibited in the Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks when Henrietta’s family did not truly comprehend her diagnoses or the procedures she had to go through. Due to the Lacks family’s gaps in scientific education and access to information, they were unable to control or even fully understand what was happening, which made it easy for the doctors (who had access to and knowledge of the latest scientific information) to take advantage of Henrietta and her family. In the same way, those who do not receive a foundational education in science today will remain at a disadvantage in making similar decisions, or worse, remain at the mercy of sensationalist media. Fear and lack of understanding have also heavily influenced public policy as well as science-based outlets. In the past several months the news of the Trump administration seeking to limit the vocabulary of the CDC (and other medical databases) led to an outcry of the public. While the Orwellian proposition was labeled as a mere suggestion and the head of the CDC, Dr.
Brenda Fitzgerald, assured that the CDC has no banned words, many remain at unease and fear for what is to come. The emphasis on tradition and the status quo in many ways also led to an increased ignorance and reliance on sensational and unverified media sources. Perhaps more prominent is the continued debate over vaccines and autism, and how the two allegedly correlate. Due to the spread of sensational pseudoscience, many of those who do not have previously mentioned education or understanding of science have come to believe vaccination does more harm than good. This is a severe threat to public health.
Vaccination is a core measure of limiting the outbreak of many preventable diseases.