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S E V E N The Agreement and the Public Stage T HE AGREEMENT BETWEEN the University of California, Berkeley and Novartis became a public concern on October 9, 1998, when the San Francisco Chronicle reported that these two organizations were in the final stages of their negotiations. The article mentioned that similar agreements between universities and private corporations had become commonplace, but it raised concerns that the scope of this particular arrangement would give industry an unusual degree of control over the research agenda on the Berkeley campus. On October 14 a letter to the editor of the newspaper echoing these concerns was the first sally in what very quickly became a public debate. These two newspaper items, which appeared prior to the actual signing of UCB-N, shed light on the role of the media in shaping public opinion. Obviously , the media report on issues as unproblematic as the weather or the outcome of a ballgame, and as contentious and inflammatory as agricultural biotechnology and Supreme Court decisions. When readers and viewers see coverage of an issue in which they have a vested interest, they may mobilize resources to try and influence that coverage and thus public opinion (e.g., Montgomery 1989). This was certainly the case with UCB-N, and this chapter focuses on what was said in the public arena, and by whom. It should be noted at the outset that it is not our intention to review the operational guidelines of various news organizations, which have been covered by others (e.g., Bagdikian 1992; Franklin and Murphy 1998; Gans 1979; Gitlin 1980; Tuchman 1978; Zelizer 1992), but to show how the media bring to light discrepancies or disagreements over how other organizations operate. We analyze both internal and external press coverage of the agreement to show how the principles discussed in Chapter 2 (creativity, autonomy, and diversity) were upheld by media/public relations offices within the university and challenged by media organizations off campus. THE ROLES OF THE MEDIA Our approach is grounded in the social-problems model put forth by Blumer (1971) and Hilgartner and Bosk (1988), which defines a social problem as something that appears in a public arena, such as the mass media, which leads to public awareness and controversy in some form or another. The publicity then generates various forms of legitimation processes by which those claiming to be knowledgeable about the issue at hand step forward to offer their suggestions and possible assistance in solving the problem. Researchers then measure, operationalize, and analyze the discourse that takes place in the public arena in order to gain an understanding of how the controversy has been constructed and how its construction is interpreted and responded to by different sectors of the audience (Ader 1995; Best 1991; Lange 1993). In addition, there is a“bounce”or“ripple”effect when actors with a vested interest in the issue, whether directly or indirectly, react to the various constructions coming before the audience. Those with direct ties may find that they have to try to justify their conduct, while those with indirect ties may change the way they conduct themselves in the future so as to avoid similar problems and controversies. Both media effects are important for understanding the impact of UCB-N, as many different actors were (potentially) affected by it. This became clear in a number of articles appearing in such publications as the Chronicle of Higher Education, in which individuals with a vested interest in the image of higher education questioned various aspects of the agreement. Our framing of UCB-N as a social problem stems from the fact that coverage of it included confrontations between UCB administrators and people who felt that UCB-N threatened UCB’s academic freedom. We have looked at some of the opposition to the agreement in earlier chapters. In addition, some reporters were interested in the agreement purely from a news standpoint. Once news reporters decide that an issue is controversial, professional ethics dictate that opposing viewpoints be presented, though equal coverage is rarely given to all sides of a question (Gans 1979; Gitlin 1980; Tuchman 1978). Ericson et al. (1989) argue that big business, the criminal justice system, and government offices have more control over media coverage than smaller, less powerful interests. These organizations have more direct links to reporters, which gives them opportunities to shape the news. In contrast, smaller groups T H E A G R E E M E N...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9781592135356
Related ISBN
9781592135349
MARC Record
OCLC
184903524
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-01
Language
English
Open Access
No
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