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RELIGION, SCIENCE AND PUBLIC EDUCATION: NEWSPAPER COVERAGE
OF THE ORIGINS' DEBATE IN OHIO'S PUBLIC SCHOOLS
JUSTIN D. MARTIN
A THESIS PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL
OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT
OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF
MASTER OF ARTS
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
Justin D. Martin
This document is dedicated to my parents, William and Sandy Martin; my success in
higher education would not have been possible without you.
I would like to thank my committee members (Dr. Lynda L. Kaid, Dr. Spiro
Kiousis and Dr. John Wright) for demonstrating an immeasurable fondness of teaching,
love of learning and commitment to excellence. It is a privilege to work among talented
and personable scholars. I thank my parents, William and Sandy Martin, whose gentle
but unshakeable support instilled in me a love of truth and the courage to seek it.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
ACKNOW LEDGM ENTS ........................................ iv
LIST OF TABLES ............... ............. ...................... vii
ABSTRACT .............................. ......................... viii
1 INTRODUCTION ................... .................. .............. .... ......... .......
Religion in American Public Life............................................................ ... .....2
The Em ergence of Intelligent D esign.........................................................................4
Criticism of Intelligent Design ........................ ....... ....................6
The C controversy in O hio .................... .......... .....................8
Intelligent Design and the Structure of Scientific Revolutions ................................10
Intelligent D esign and Social Capital ................................................................... 11
2 BACKGROUND .............. ..................................... .... ...... ........14
Journalists and Religion................. ................................................ .... 14
Journalists and Science ................... ......................... ................................................. 18
Framing...................................... .................. ............... ........21
Fram ing Religion .................. .................. ....................... ... ............. 25
Hypotheses and Research Questions .............................. ...............26
3 METHODS .................................................30
Sam ple ........................................................... 30
Coding Instrument and Coding Scheme.........................................30
4 RESULTS .................................................33
Article Tone ................... .......................... ........ 33
Frames................ ....... .. .. ... ............................... 33
Creationist and Fundamentalist Terms and Descriptors .............................................34
Location of Publication and Treatment of the Intelligent Design Controversy..........36
Scientific Uncertainty, Scientific Acceptance and Scientific Denial .........................37
Scientific vs. Religious portrayal............................................................ .... .... 38
5 DISCUSSION ............... ......... ....................... 48
Limitations ............................ ............ .........57
Future Research ................................................... .........58
A COD ESH EET .................. ............................ ........ .... .. ..............................60
B CODEBOOK .. ......... ....... ............ ............................ 64
LIST OF REFERENCES ....................... ......... ........68
BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH ...................................................80
LIST OF TABLES
4-1 Frequencies............................. ... ......... .. 39
4-2 Tone of Article across Type of News Article .............. .. ............41
4-3 Presence of Creationist Terms across Article Tone .....................................42
4-4 Presence of Creationist Descriptors across Article Tone............... ...... .........43
4-5 Location of Publication across Article Tone..........................................44
4-6 Location of Publication across Presence of Creationist Terms............... ............45
4-7 Location of Publication across Presence of Creationist Descriptors.....................46
4-8 Scientific Acceptance/Uncertainty across Article Type...................................... 47
Abstract of Thesis Presented to the Graduate School
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Master of Arts
RELIGION, SCIENCE AND PUBLIC EDUCATION: NEWSPAPER COVERAGE
OF THE ORIGINS' DEBATE IN OHIO'S PUBLIC SCHOOLS
JUSTIN D. MARTIN
Chair: Lynda Lee Kaid
Major Department: Mass Communications
Broadly, this project analyzed journalistic treatment of religion and science.
Specifically, this thesis analyzed the treatment of a discipline called Intelligent Design
and a surrounding controversy that took place in Ohio's public schools. Intelligent
Design is a notion which challenges Darwinian evolution through the claim that life is too
complex to have originated by chance variations. The decision of whether or not to
include the concept of Intelligent Design in Ohio's public school science curricula
sparked a flood of newspaper coverage both inside and outside the state of Ohio. This
thesis examines this newspaper coverage in terms of the overall tone of the coverage,
various "frames" or central themes that organized the coverage, the presence/absence of
certain descriptors of the Intelligent Design movement, and also the treatment of
Intelligent Design as "science" or "non-science."
Media mold and influence our understanding of the world. Religious issues are, for
most people, a part of that world. Because of increasing media coverage of religious
issues, my study examined media coverage of a religious debate. The debate over the
merits of a discipline called Intelligent Design (ID) -the idea that life is far too complex
to have developed randomly and without purpose-is a unique one, in that it is a religious
debate taking place across the entire country, from Nebraska and Texas, to Minnesota
and Pennsylvania. Few if any religious issues are more debated, covered in the media, or
hotly disputed than the theory of intelligent agency in the universe, and the challenge it
poses to naturalistic evolution. One study on newspaper coverage of ID showed that
articles on ID frequently elicited a flood of letters and responses from readers, sometimes
lasting for a week or more after a specific article was published (Martin, Trammell,
Valois, Landers & Bailey, 2004). This public interest in, as well as opposition to, the ID
discipline has fueled a panoply of media coverage of the topic.
One need only type in the words IDto search engines (such as Google and Yahoo)
or databases (such as Lexis Nexis and Ebsco Host) to recognize the volume of resources
and criticism available on this topic. Much of this coverage involves controversies in
public school districts, and their deliberations and decisions on whether to include ID in
public-school science curricula and, if so, to what extent. My study examined newspaper
coverage of one such ID controversy in and among the school board and citizens of the
state of Ohio.
Religion in American Public Life
By the middle of the 20th Century, many western scholars believed religion was a
fading aspect of public life, but that belief soon passed (Armstrong, 2004). The
phenomenon of religion has reemerged in recent years in liberal democracies, as well as
in the rest of the World, and media coverage of religious issues and scholarly analysis of
media and religion have paralleled this trend (De Vries, 2001). Unlike the general
interpretation of the theory of secularization, religion is not a moribund influence in
society (Silk, 2000). Even in places like Great Britain, where weekly church attendance
is an apathetic 7% of the general population, Internet churches are sprouting up in an
attempt to interest young worshipers (Radcliffe, 2004). Christian books have been
penetrating bestseller lists worldwide. One such book, Rick Warren's The Purpose-
Driven Life (2002), has sold nearly 11 million copies. This reemergence of religion is
perhaps even more prominent in the United States, because the incumbent president is a
born-again and vocal evangelical Christian; and also because of religious overtones
inherent in the gay-marriage and pledge-of-allegiance debates taking place in states
across the country, and in Congress (Winston, 2004). Mass communication scholars
have seemingly taken notice of these trends.
Since the mid-twentieth century, the relationship between religion and the mass
media has come into scholarly focus (Hoover, 2002). In the last twenty years,
communication scholars have increasingly studied this relationship (Mitchell, 2000). The
Journal of Communication and Religion was founded in the late 1970s, but more in-depth
analysis did not proceed until later (Hatcher, 2003). Indeed, it was not until 2002 that the
Journal of Media and Religion began publishing quarterly periodicals addressing this
Still, some scholars favor more study of religious issues and the media (Stout &
Buddenbaum, 2002), and this may be due to a recent increase in media coverage of
religious issues. During roughly the past 10 years, religion journalism has grown, and
more journalists are now willing to step into the fray and report on religious controversy
(Ward, 2002, p12; "Newspapers get religion," 1999). In December 2003 and January
2004, for instance, all three major American news magazines (U.S. News & World
Report, Time and Newsweek) published cover or major articles critiquing author Dan
Brown's (2003) theological and fictional book The Davinci Code (Kulman & Tolson,
2003; Kantrowitz and Underwood, 2003; Grossman, 2004). In the same year, U.S. News
also published two more cover articles covering major religious trends: one involved
dominant perceptions of Jesus in America, and the other involved the increasing size of
American evangelical congregations (Tolson & Kulman, 2004; Tolson, 2003).
In the summer of 2003, Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore made national headlines
when he refused to remove a monument bearing the ten commandments of Judeo-
Christianity, an event that sparked national dialogue about religion in the public square
(Hoffman, 2004). In an even greater example of media frenzy over religious issues, on
February 25, 2004, Mel Gibson's anticipated film "The Passion of the Christ," began
playing amid enormous fanfare and in movie theaters nationwide (Goldstein, 2004).
Also, recent scandals involving the Catholic Church have ignited a flood of media
coverage of the role and effects of organized religion in and on contemporary society
(Wirth, 2002). The large amount of extant media coverage of religion, according to some
scholars, warrants study of such coverage (Buddenbaum, 2002). This study addressed
that need; and in analyzing a specific religious controversy, builds on prior
communications research about media and religion in general, as well as upon research
on newspapers and ID in particular.
The Emergence of Intelligent Design
American theists (and more specifically, religious conservatives) are highly
concerned with culture and values (Kintz & Lesage, 1998). Many Americans have
rejected the "secularization" of the country's public schools, and advocate a return to
Judeo-Christian beliefs (Mattheis, 1981). Many of these values spring from certain
beliefs about the universe and its origins: beliefs that have spawned a new era in the
Creation-vs.-Evolution debate. In 2002, Mason Dixon polling surveyed 1,500 Ohioans
and found that 59% favored teaching ID and the theory of evolution by natural selection
in the state's public schools (Viadero, 2002).
By this time, most Ohio residents were familiar with the argument of ID, and more
than half felt Ohio's schoolchildren should consider it. Other similar debates have taken
place in school boards across the country, and most recently in Georgia.
Before the early 1990s, the phrase Intelligent Design was not well-known. By the
end of that decade and the beginning of the next, though, the phrase and its acronym were
appearing in books from university presses; and newspaper and magazine articles,
refereed, academic journals. Discussion of the movement appeared on public television
networks like PBS (Beckwith, 2003a). The journal Natural History ("Intelligent
Design?," 2002) devoted space in one volume to arguments from three proponents and
three challengers of ID. Searching LexisNexis or other academic/journalistic databases
yields thousands of articles on the topic of Intelligent Design.
In general, ID is "a scientific research program that investigates the effects of
intelligent causes, an intellectual movement that challenges Darwinism and its
naturalistic legacy" (Dembski, 1999, pp.13). Intelligent Design's scholars hale not only
from fields such as theology and philosophy, but also from biology, mathematics and law
and are accomplished scientists ("Not Your Daddy's Fundamentalism," 2004). Followers
of the movement distinguish themselves from their creationist predecessors mainly
through a higher level of scientific literacy (The New Scientist, 2002), and their popular
presence and political influence is increasing.
Much of this coverage was due to debate of science standards in various school
districts across the country. In places like Kansas, Alabama, New Mexico, Kentucky,
Ohio, Michigan and Minnesota, school boards debated future standards for teaching the
origins of life, whether to use certain evolutionary terminology, and whether to include
ID theory in their curricula (Moore, 2002).
The first successes of ID's penetration into the public awareness are largely
credited to University of California, Berkeley professor of law Phillip Johnson. In 1990,
while on sabbatical in London, England, Johnson wrote Darwin on Trial, a book largely
credited as the precursory text of the ID movement (Woodward, 2003). The book argued
that for reasons such as large gaps in the fossil record, Charles Darwin's theory of
common ancestry through successive, slight modifications was untenable. The book
created a stir in scientific communities and encouraged some like-minded scholars to join
efforts. In the years after the release of his 1991 bestseller, Johnson and colleagues both
for and against design theory arranged academic conferences and symposia on ID at such
institutions as Stanford, Cornell, the University of Texas, Harvard and the University of
Chicago (Beckwith, 2003). On the ID side of this debate, design theorists claim
Darwinism and the biological sciences are driven by philosophical naturalism; on the
Darwinist side of the controversy, evolutionists tag design theory as Creationism in
disguise and its proponents as academics with an agenda.
Broadly, ID proponents submit that "intelligent agency, as an aspect of scientific
theory making, has more explanatory power in accounting for the specified, and
sometimes irreducible, complexity of some physical systems, including .the existence
of a universe as a whole, than the blind forces of unguided and everlasting
matter" (Beckwith, p.xiii, 2003b). These "blind" and "unguided" forces are what
Johnson (2000) claims embodies the philosophy of naturalism, and he argues that the
scientific community is faced with two choices when confronting ID: scientists can
entertain the possibility of supernatural creation or dismiss it outright.
ID's proponents do more than critique and call into question the philosophy of
scientific naturalism; according to Beckwith (2003a), these researchers are publishing
books in academic presses and articles in refereed journals. Unlike some Creationist
adherents, ID advocates offer scientific, technical and empirically grounded arguments to
promote and support theism (Beckwith, 2003b). ID researchers are generally more subtle
than Creationist theologians; the former claim that natural selection cannot explain the
complexity of life, and suggest intelligent agency, but say very little about who or what
that agent may be (Greenwalt, 2003).
Criticism of Intelligent Design
That the ID movement is growing in recognition and influence need not imply that
it is without its critics. Some scientists argue simply that ID is not a scientific discipline,
because the complex nature of human life does not necessarily imply Creation (Shermer,
2004). Some of the most heated political controversies in the last four decades involved
the teaching (and not teaching) of evolution in public schools (Lugg, 2004). The notion
of ID elicits strong responses in many academics; according to The London Times,
shortly after turning 100 years of age, Harvard biologist Ernst Mayr is putting final
touches on a research publication critical of design theory (Henderson, 2004).
Modernization, or secularization, of American life, such as that in public schools, has
been wrought with conflict and harsh words from both the religious and secular camps
(Smith, 2003). American Institute of Biological Sciences president Judith Weis (2001)
encourages biologists to counteract the efforts of ID with perpetual determination.
While some survey data suggests most Americans favor teaching design theory
alongside evolution, many academics dispute the notion that ID is a scientific discipline.
Some scholars feel that ID should be addressed in religion classes and evolution in
scientific ones (Wexler, 2003). Cracraft (2004) goes further by saying that ID in science
classrooms poses a danger to students' scientific literacy. Physicist Adrian Melott (2002,
p.48) claims that ID is "Creationism in a cheap tuxedo." Other scholars feel ID
proponents are plainly ignorant or deliberately spurious when it comes to scientific
objectivity (Milner & Maestro, 2002). Just because an entity exhibits complexity does
not mean it was intelligently designed, some say. A termite mound, says Peterson
(2002), is complex and beautiful, but that does not necessary lend itself to the work of an
intelligent agent. In a similar vein, Eller (2003) criticizes ID proponents for basing their
theory on unexplained aspects of evolution. He uses the example of macroevolution
(species evolving into an entirely different species). ID researchers are quick to note that,
says Eller, not one example of macroevolution has ever been proven either in or outside
of the fossil record, an assertion he claims does not prove intelligent agency by default.
Campbell (2003), however, feels that the goal to preserve the integrity of science is
compromised when competing theories of life's origins are dismissed outright, and he
hints that the only way to increase the plausibility of naturalism is to defeat such
competition in classrooms and lecture halls.
The Controversy in Ohio
This study analyzes newspaper coverage of a religious/scientific debate in Ohio's
public school board. While controversies over ID in public schools have raged in other
states, Ohio was chosen for analysis for specific reasons. Ohio is not part of the group of
states frequently referred to as the "Bible Belt," and is therefore indicative of ID's
influence in middle America and outside of so-called evangelical strongholds.
Furthermore, Ohio offers an interesting duality: according to polling data, the general
population of Ohio supports the inclusion of ID in the state's public schools (Viadero,
2002). Academics, however, are generally less accepting of ID (Johnson, 2002), and the
state of Ohio has within its borders some of the most prestigious academic institutions in
the United States: the University of Cincinnati, Case Western Reserve University, The
Ohio State University, etc. Perhaps this is why the controversy in Ohio raged for a
considerable period of time. Newspaper coverage of the Ohio controversy is extensive
and suitable for analysis (news coverage ranges roughly from mid-2000 to early 2004).
This study builds on prior research on ID in the media in particular, and journalism and
religion research in general.
"Education becomes religious in a formal sense," wrote Hunt (1960, p.90), "when
instruction is given in the tenets of one of the organized faiths." Hunts' words might have
been uttered by one of ID's challengers in Ohio some 40 years later, as the controversy in
that state was essentially this: evidence challenging Darwinism was proposed for
inclusion in the state science curriculum, and opponents claimed such an inclusion was
honoring "tenets" of "organized faith." The debate in Ohio over public-school science
standards was long and fierce; at times, rumors promised that evolutionary proponents
would file lawsuits against the school board if challenges to evolution were allowed in
public classrooms (Galley, 2004). The crux of the debate centered on whether or not to
allow teachers to criticize aspects of evolutionary theory they deemed lacking.
Critics of these efforts and of Intelligent Design, though, claimed the campaign
challenging evolutionary standards was an attempt to sneak religion in the classroom
(Durbin, 2000). The controversy began in 2001, shortly before the Ohio Board of
Education was poised to ratify the state's science standards for its 1.8 million public-
school children, something the board does every several years (Mangels & Stephens,
2002). The board of education initially rejected the request ("Evolution solution faith:
science must part at school door," 2001) and the controversy remained relatively static
until 2002 when the Ohio Board of Education voted 17-0 to endorse a "resolution of
intent" expressing their plan to alter the state science standards to include evidence
challenging Darwinism (Winnick, 2002). The controversy was settled with the passage of
the Academic Freedom Act of 2004, which provided public school teachers "the
affirmative right and freedom to present scientific, historical, theoretical, or evidentiary
information pertaining to alternative theories or points of view on the subject of
biological or physical origins" (Goldacre, 2004, p.3). The law stopped short of requiring
teaching of Intelligent Design, and did not specify design theory as one of the "alternative
theories or points of view," but ID proponents hailed the law a major victory in the
challenge to Darwinism in public classrooms. The passage of the law was a victory for
ID adherents, because supporters of the theory were not asking for inclusion of ID in the
first place. Such supporters were "not asking the state to require the teaching of
evolution and intelligent design," according to one Columbus Dispatch article. "Instead,
they want guarantees in the standards that arguments or materials critical of the theory of
evolution can be introduced," (Lore, 2000, p.1).
Intelligent Design and the Structure of Scientific Revolutions
Most scholars who have praised or critiqued tenets of Thomas Kuhn's (1962)
famed essay The Structure of Scientific Revolutions discuss Kuhn's notion of paradigm
shift and paradigm change. Kuhn devotes significant space in his essay, however, to
discussing the difficulty many scientific historians encounter when they attempt to
chronicle and to capture the nonlinear accumulation of scientific knowledge while using
linear language. Part of the problem historians face, of course, involves the panoply of
articles, books and letters they must sift through in order to document the progression
and, ultimately, the success or failure of scientific ideas and movements. "Perhaps
science does not develop by the accumulation of individual discoveries and inventions,"
writes Kuhn (p.2).
Kuhn goes on to argue that this results in historians asking nonlinear questions;
instead of asking about the relationship between revolutionary scientists of the past and
those today, for example, many historians may now ask questions regarding a
revolutionary scientists' relationship with his or her contemporaries. For historians,
quantitative content analysis makes possible generalizations from large amounts of
resources and references to the scientific climate of the period under examination. This
study seeks to examine the taproots of what just may be the sprout of scientific
revolution, by analyzing coverage of the IDdebate within Ohio's public school system.
Not only do social scientists experience resistance and criticism in the difficulty of
examining the massive amount of historical documents, but social scientists have also
been strongly criticized for their frequent inability to predict the future (Machlup, 1961).
For social scientists in communications, content analyses make predicting the nature of
future mass media messages less arbitrary. One of the primary uses of framing theories,
for example, is the ability to conjecture in an educated way how future coverage of an
issue is likely to be presented. This study, then, may provide some cohesion for future
historians who wish to chronicle the success or failure of the ID movement, and may also
add logic to predictions of future coverage of religious and/or scientific movements and
For better or worse, ID may be poised for scientific revolt. ID is gaining steam in
academic circles. The vast majority of Americans believe in a supernatural creator of the
universe (Huntington, 2004). Scientific revolutions, one could argue, cannot subsist
without a newly developed concept of social force called "social capital," which is
discussed below, as is the concepts' relationship to Intelligent Design.
Intelligent Design and Social Capital
Much ink has been spilt on the concept of social capital in the academic literature
of the fields of political science, sociology, economics, to name a few, and also in the
field of education (Horvat, Weininger & Lareau, 2003).The notion of social capital,
generated by Harvard's Robert Putnam in the early nineties (Holm, 2004), is defined as
social forces that inspire trust, action, awareness and reciprocity in and among
communities (Leyden, 2003). Requena (2003) defines social capital as cooperative,
social partnerships that spur collective action.
As seen in Ohio, ID appears to contribute to social capital, in that it spurs collective
action in the areas of education, local and state politics, and in the interpretation and
questioning of scientific paradigms. Examples of ID's influence on social capital come
from some of the articles on the topic. Perhaps the most glaring example of ID's
influence on social capital appeared in the Harvard Journal ofLaw and Public Policy by
Beckwith (2003), who argues that design theory has reignited interest and awareness of a
debate that was considered by many to be over.
Another such example comes from London's The Guardian. Burkeman and Jha
(2003, p.4) reported that, in terms of ID's influence, "one of the first signs that something
was changing came last year in the suburbs of northern Atlanta, when people started
talking ... about mousetraps." The mousetrap was adopted by ID proponent and author
of the bestselling Darwin's Black Box (1996) Michael Behe to explain a characteristic of
living cells he calls "irreducible complexity." While the specifics of irreducible
complexity are not important here, Burkeman and Jha's observations are noteworthy.
These two journalists recognized that ID had spurred in Georgia widespread debate about
biochemical machinations. Not only did ID principles spur discourse on the science of
life's origins, but The Guardian also reported that ID was impelling scores of Georgian
parents to challenge the material their children were learning in school by confronting
If ID expands public awareness, interest and concern with broad issues like
education, public policy and traditional scientific paradigms, as Marske (1996) argues are
the indicators of influence on social capital, then mass media coverage of such an
impetus should be studied. This study analyzed more than 250 newspaper articles
covering the burgeoning movement and influence of Intelligent Design, borne out in
controversy in Ohio's public schools.
Journalists and Religion
The very first newspapers -printed information published on a consistent basis-
were published in Reformation strongholds like Augsburg and Amsterdam and were
religious in nature (Olasky, 1991). While newspapers and journalism in general are
wholly different today than in the 17th Century, religion is once again becoming a staple
of mass media. Like religions' ostensible reemergence into public life, religion has, in
the past quarter century, become newsworthy. According to Keeler, Tarpley and Smith
(1990), religion became news again in the 1970s, because journalists realized religion had
an impact on presidential elections, foreign policy and Supreme Court rulings. Criticism
of this increased coverage, though, became no less common than the religious content
In his book Unsecular Media, Silk (1995) notes that anyone knowledgeable about a
particular topic will likely express dissatisfaction with the way that topic is covered in the
mass media. Indeed, in their analysis of media framing of feminism/the women's
movement, Ashley and Olson (1998) concluded mainly that media coverage of feminism
served to de-legitimize the movement. Religion, similarly argues Silk, is no different in
this regard and, by the standards of theologians and others, media coverage of religion
frequently demonstrates errors, improper slant or inadequate contextualization (see also
Engstrom and Semic, 2003). These sentiments led The Washington Report on Middle
East Affairs to complain that mainstream American journalists have not done enough to
encourage an understanding of Islam and of Muslims living in the U.S. ("Scarves of
many colors," 1997).
Traditionally, religion reporting has been considered less than a top assignment
and, for quite some time, was marginalized in American journalism (Buddenbaum, 1986;
Moses, 1993). Hubbard (1988) claims that some journalists view themselves as liberated
from having to report on religion and, for some time, have chosen to report on issues of
the nation separate from faith. Hubbard goes on to argue that some journalists view
religion as a private aspect of life, and avoid it, choosing instead to report on issues they
deem public. Soukup (1996) feels that religious individuals hold distrust for the media,
and might even partly blame mass communicators for corrupting society with
objectionable content. Perhaps this is why Buddenbaum (1998, p.1) feels mass media
demonstrate that "religion is the greatest story that's never told, or, at least, the greatest
story that's never told very well." According to Ward (2002), journalists experience
difficulty covering religious stories because such issues are typically sensitive and often
polarizing, and they don't want to appear to favor one stance or another. For this reason,
he claims, editors have historically avoided many religious stories in favor of other
current events issues.
Within roughly the last decade, however, religion stories have been too important
for some editors to ignore and journalists are being sent out regularly on religious
assignment (Buddenbaum, 1990). "Religion reporting is hot," writes Alice Shepard
(1995, pp.18-19) in the American Journalism Review. "More and more people are
looking for spiritual elements in their lives." People are also looking for more spiritual
elements in political candidates, a phenomenon which could be partly responsible for
increased coverage of religious issues in the presidential campaign year of 2004,
according to one New Yorker article (Hertzberg, 2004). U.S. News & World Report
columnist John Leo (2004) also pointed out the focus on religion at the 2004 Democratic
National convention, which led to increased dialogue about religion in the media,
something self-evident in his very column, which was titled "Talk about getting
Perhaps because religion journalism is an increasingly prevalent phenomenon,
some researchers feel communication scholars know little about the relationship between
mass media and religion (Stout & Buddenbaum, 2002). Communication researchers tend
to study both religion and the mass media, usually in isolation and rarely together
(Buddenbaum, 2002). This is also true according to Hoover (2002), who feels that some
mass communication scholars deem religion as a fading and insignificant aspect of
cultural life, although such a suggestion is weakened by the fact that 83 percent of
Americans identify themselves as either practicing Catholics or Christians (Florio, 2004).
Moreover, a study by Nieman Reports suggests that Americans favor more and a wider
range of media coverage of religious issues (Hoover, 1993), even in the face of evidence
suggesting that religious stories in the media are now more in-depth and detailed than in
the past (Buddenbaum, 1986). This sought to shed light on the relationship between mass
media and religion by studying print j journalism coverage of a religious/scientific
When reporting on religion and its role in American life, the media frequently
portray religious issues as a conflict between fundamentalists and the mainstream. For
instance, the coverage of Muslims in America, according to an analysis of seven major
news dailies conducted by The Christian Science Monitor in the mid-nineties, frequently
demonstrates journalists' tendency to emphasize fundamentalist and extremist
characteristics (Marquand, 1996). In doing so, media practitioners often ignore the
erasure of denominational borders (Bolce & DeMaio, 2002). And because antipathy
toward Christian fundamentalism exists among educated and secular elites (Bolce &
DeMaio, 1999; Kerr, 2003), some media scholars argue coverage of religious issues
generally, not just particularly those stories fundamentalist in nature, is negative or
critical. Hoover (1998, p.57) admits that a "media cohort explanation"-the idea that, as
a group, journalists are less religious and more politically leftist than mainstream
America- of such coverage is a compelling one.
Such cohort reporting may have been evident in coverage of the 1980 presidential
election, in the way journalists presented American evangelicals, "The Christian Right,"
as they labeled them. These American voters were portrayed as a powerful "political
development" steering support for Ronald Reagan, although follow-up analyses of voter
choice did not recognize such mobilization (Johnson & Tamney, 1982). Coulter (2002)
claims that supposed political power of the so-called "Christian Right" is something
journalists claim but inaccurately define. In the case of Intelligent Design, the primary
debate is not simply one between Creationists/fundamentalists and the mainstream.
There are differing schools of thought within the discipline: under ID's auspices exist
agnostics, northeastern Catholics, southern Baptists and liberal Episcopalians, and not all
agree on an intelligent agent's role in the origins of life.
Not all media scholars, however, agree that coverage of religious issues and
individuals is definitively negative. Although many religious Americans accuse the
media of being hostile to religion in public life and for harshly reporting on religious
issues such as church and state separation (Gedicks, 1992), it may be unfair to
instinctively disdain religion reporting if only because one dislikes the message
(Neuhaus, 2003). Lichter, Rothman and Lichter (1986) found that more than half of elite
journalists expressed no or minimal religious beliefs, but other research challenges the
generalizeability of the findings and points to evidence claiming that three-fourths of
journalists exhibit religious interest (Weaver & Wilhoit, 1996).
Some research suggests that the media have an overall positive orientation with
religion and, in particular, with Christianity (Underwood & Stamm, 2000). While not
challenging the notion that the media demonstrate attitudes toward religion disparate with
the American public, such research posits that journalists are satisfactorily objective
toward religion in hard news coverage (Kerr & Moy, 2002). Religion reporters do not
exist solely to cover religious conflict, but also to examine religion's relationship with,
and influence on, public life (Strupp, 1999).
Journalists and Science
Along with reporting on religious issues, the media play a monumental role in
public understanding of scientific issues and concerns (Lewenstein, 1995). For not a
small number of years, though, journalists and scientists have had a rocky relationship;
journalists view themselves as entertainers, informers and challengers of ideas, while
many scientists see themselves as the originators of important and useful information
which should be communicated by the news media to the public in certain ways (Reed &
Walker, 2002). This conflict may be evident in the relationship between the mass media
and environmental scientists; the former view themselves as entertainers in the way of
environmental conflicts and current event issues, while the latter view themselves as
public educators of certain scientific evidence (Roll-Hansen, 1994).
Although many researchers do not attempt to publish their work outside of the
academic community, some scholars stress the importance of scientific reports in the
mass media, especially in order to foster a dialogue between academics and mass media
consumers (Ben-Ari, 1998). Priest and Eyck (2003) argue that discussion of the latest
scientific developments often take place in elite circles and away from public light and
feel that the mass media are in a position to influence more public interpretation of
scientific issues than other issues of interest. Many researchers do not write press releases
on their academic work, perhaps because journalists have been criticized time and again
for their coverage of science. The beat of science journalism continues to grow (Fayard,
1997) and, it appears, so does criticism of the genre. According to Shaw (2000; see also
Condit, 2004), much science learning takes place outside of academic classrooms and in
the mass media and, therefore, scholars should investigate such coverage.
In their book Communicating Uncertainty (1999; see also "Testing a radical
theory," 2004), Friedman, Dunwoody and Rogers suggest that in some ways, journalists
could do better in their coverage of new and uncertain science. Specifically, they posit
that journalists frequently portray emerging scientific movements as more certain than
may be warranted. One reason for this might be that journalists tend to minimize and
play down scientific uncertainties when reporting on new scientific developments (Singer
& Endreny, 1993). Science reporters have also been criticized for frequently neglecting
to fully explain underlying scientific processes and effects which, if true, could be a
reason why many scientific uncertainties are not thus described (Gilbert, 1997).
Journalists sometimes exaggerate the importance of new medical
developments/procedures, for example (Wilkins, 1999). Murray, Schwartz and Lichter
(2001) similarly maintain that journalists can either highlight or ignore certain aspects of
scientific reports. They note that many preliminary and/or incomplete research reports
receive absolute-truth treatment in the press. Incomplete scientific reports may also
result from the fact that the media's overriding goal is to engage
readers/listeners/consumers with their content and providing new and exciting scientific
information may be one approach to this, despite whether or not journalists gave more
than a cursory nod at the data. Also, journalists work on tight deadlines, so in-depth
analysis of scientific reports and their flaws becomes difficult (Barker, 1995). In their
analysis of media coverage of breast cancer in the 1990's, Andsager and Powers (1999)
similarly found that space constraints and other pressures presented problems for
reporters covering scientific developments regarding this disease.
While the best science reporting usually includes detailed background information
on the subject, lengthy and informative quotes from the researcherss, and comments
from other scholars in the same field (Lewis, 1999), many science articles simply are not
that detailed or carefully written. Scientific reports are sometimes rushed to the press,
regardless of whether the truth of the reports is certain among journalists (Pollard, 1996).
Journalism schools, though, are frequently intimating to students the importance of
detailed exposition of science in their copy (Starr, 2002). Following scientific
developments and breakthroughs, journalists are the first people to communicate such
science to laypeople, and they must do so with sharp details written in common language
(Friedhoff, 2002). Lewenstein (1995) argues that, with increasing technologies available
to reporters for communicating and understanding science, scientific reporting is
changing and improving.
When evaluating news coverage, whether that coverage deals with issues scientific,
religious or otherwise, the organizing presentation of such issues is important to consider.
As we humans navigate our lives, we are forced to sort through and organize enormous
amounts of information. Much of this information, of course, reaches us via the mass
media, and media frames are credited with helping us manage the panoply of messages to
which we are exposed. Commonly described as the second level of a theory called
agenda setting, frames provide a coherent way to decipher and archive these mounds of
information (Cohen & Wolfsfeld, 1993). In the past quarter-century, communications
scholars have concentrated research efforts into study of agenda-setting, framing, and
effects thereof. Shifting away from a somewhat stringent view of the audience as passive
recipients, scholars have focused on the media's potential and deliberation in shaping
coverage of current events (Goffman, 1974; McCune, 2003; Davis, 1995). Much
research has been conducted on media framing as a theory of media effects. Framing,
which involves details as subtle as diction and nuance as well as larger influences such as
source selection, has been used to analyze media bias and mass media influence on public
opinion (Jasperson, Shah, Watts, Faber & Fan, 1998). The cognitive process of
interpreting media frames, regardless of how complex or basic those frames may be,
involves low levels of cognitive attention and are thus shortcuts which help media
consumers understand a story or issue (Bryant & Zillman, 2002). That frames are
described in the literature as cognitive shortcuts, however, need not diverge from the
argument that such frames are persuasive to some degree. McQuail (1994) argued that
the study of mass communication exists upon the assumption that mass media messages
exert effects on people, and framing has been studied to this end. Scheufele (1999)
argues that theoretical understanding of frames should take place within the larger
context of media-effects research.
Frames are central organizing themes and supporting points within which news
packages are delivered (McLeod & Detenber, 1999). Similarly, Gamson and Modigliani
(1987) argue that frames are organizational tools that provide meaning and weave related
points of an argument or story together in a concrete way. More than that, though,
Benford and Snow (2000) argue framing processes are so important that they must be
examined in order to understand the root of social movements.
At their best, frames make our world more knowable and more interpretable
(Durham, 1998), and journalists should be credited with the usefulness of such
organization (Tuchman, 1979). At their worst, though, frames may have the capability to
perpetuate old stereotypes or create new ones. In her analysis of media frames of mental
illness, Sieff (2003) found that media frames in such stories often maintained and/or
worsened negative stereotypes toward people with psychopathologies. Similarly, lyengar
(1990) argues that frames of poverty and of the poor shape public perception of the
movement and of the destitute. Baylor (1996; Debono-Roberts, 2003; Terkildsen &
Schnell, 1997) found that, depending on the particular frames used to present a
movement, media coverage can often hinder the movement's success. And, depending
on their presentation, frames can either increase or impede cognitive responses to a given
issue (Shah, Kwak, Schmierbach, & Zubric, 2004). Other research suggests that media
frames have the capacity to perpetuate and increase, if not create political cynicism
among American news consumers (Cappella and Jamieson, 1996).
McCombs (1997) suggests that media frames are not necessarily deliberate, and
that in free societies the news media do not intentionally slant the news one way or
another. Entman (1991), however, feels that media practitioners frame news in order to
elicit a favorable response from their audience which, if true, shapes media coverage in
significant ways. Like Entman, Olasky (1988) also argues that mass media shape public
agendas and often unevenly bestow legitimacy on one group or another. Brewer (2003)
feels that, in their coverage of polarizing issues, media practitioners often present
compound frames, offering both sides of the issues and leaving news consumers to decide
for themselves which frame makes more sense. In this way, it is not uncommon to notice
camps on opposing sides of an issue trying to influence, define and help frame the issue
at hand (Severin & Tankard, 2001). All frames are not equal, though, and frames can
steer an audience toward a certain interpretation of an issue and do not necessarily allow
for an egalitarian interpretation of all points of view (Tewksbury, Jones, Peske,
Raymond, Vig & 2000, Ball-Rokeach & Rokeach, 1987).
The publics' reasoning about an issue often relies on frames used to organize and
package the issue (De Vreese & Boomgaarden, 2003; Andsager & Powers, 1999; Nelson,
Clawson, Oxley, 1997) because, often, the presence of one frame often equals the
absence of another, competing frame (Gamson, Reese, Gandy & Grant, 2001; Haller &
Ralph, 2001). Similarly, Zoch and Turk (1998) argue that one of the most powerful ways
journalists frame an issue is through source selection, and the presence of one source can
preclude the inclusion of another.
Such framing effects are manifest in changes in people's choices about an issue
(Iyengar, 1987). Frames can affect the level of consideration that people give to one side
of an issue and, in so doing, affect the balance of opposing stances/arguments (Nelson,
Oxley and Clawson, 1997). People often arrive at one conclusion instead of another,
depending upon how an issue is framed. This may be a problem, according to Bullock,
Wyche and Williams (2001), because the presentation of a main frame and a few
supporting points may reduce the depth of the coverage of certain issues, leaving
consumers with little to take away from a story regarding an issue's underlying causes.
Similarly, Watkins (2001) found that media framing of the Million Man March in the
mid-nineties focused less on the specific issues that generated public interest in the event,
and more on framing the controversial stories about march organizer Louis Farrakhan.
Entman (1993) argues that the choices media consumers make about an issue
depend largely on the choices of individual journalists, who frame issues in a two-step
process. He claims that journalists first select certain aspects of an issue/event and then
make these aspects salient. Entman (2004) also identifies four major steps journalists
climb in organizing media content. First, he argues that certain aspects, developments or
conditions surrounding an issue are identified as negative. Next, possible causes are
presented for consideration. A moral judgment (whether deliberate or otherwise) of some
kind is then passed. Finally, various potential remedies or solutions are presented.
So much research has been devoted to defining and understanding frames that
some scholars argue that, by some definitions, any characteristic of a news story can be
an organizing frame (Chyi & McCombs, 2004). Other researchers choose to analyze
smaller numbers of widely researched frames. Perhaps in the interests of parsimony,
DeVreese (2004) examined just two political frames in his content analysis of Dutch
television news. In the same vein, and to avoid a cumbersome or unwieldy interpretation
of media frames, the few frames analyzed in this study are only those essential to the
topic under examination. Although examining 20 or 25 frames of a media subject may be
warranted by some of the extant framing literature, examining fewer frames may yield
more interpretable results. This study examined the presence and tone of five different
frames: science, religion, educational consequences, political involvement and legal
consequences (for conceptual descriptions of these frames or to see how such organizing
themes were operationally defined, please see the codebook in Appendix B).
Durham (1998) claims that successfully framing a news story is not easy and is,
sometimes, impossible. When analyzing the ways media practitioners frame religious
coverage, we must again remember Silks' (1995) assertion that anyone who studies
religion or the relationship between the mass media and religion will probably dislike in
some way journalists' coverage of it. Chen (2003), for instance, did not deem objective
mass media presentation of Mormons during the 2002 Winter Olympics in Utah. That
said, however, some communication scholars interpret differently the ways the mass
media frame religious coverage. Some researchers claim such coverage provides
secularized frames of religious issues, while others argue maintain that religious issues
are framed within a context of positive values (Stout & Buddenbaum, 2003).
If the media are criticized for framing coverage of religion in a certain way, such
coverage is not the only hot topic to draw fire. In her exploration of how the media frame
the feminist movement, Beck (1998) found that journalists have a difficult time
objectively framing women's issues. Other research has looked at how debate over
animal experimentation has been covered in the mass media, suggesting that coverage of
the debate is less than perfect, particularly on television (Kruse, 2001). Perhaps issues
such as the origins-of-the-earth debate, feminism and animal experimentation are simply
controversial, whether discussed in the media or in social discourse.
Hypotheses and Research Questions
The following hypotheses and research questions were written in consideration of
the literature reviewed in the preceding two chapters. Some of that research, as well as
additional and pertinent justification for the following statements, is cited prior to each
question/set of questions. Due to prior research suggesting that newspaper coverage of
religious issues tends to be impartial in hard news, critical in columns and editorials, and
favorable in letters to editors (Kerr & Moy, 2002; Martin et al., 2004), hypothesis one
predicts the following:
H1: The overall tone of newspaper coverage of the Intelligent Design debate in
public schools will be negative, although tone will differ across news type. Specifically,
hard news will tend to be neutral, columns and editorials will more often be negative, and
letters to the editor will tend to be positive.
Research question one deals with the presence of five frames: science, religion,
education, political involvement and legal consequences. Martin et al. (2004) analyzed
the presence of five such frames in their analysis of newspaper coverage of ID. Inclusion
of several of these frames, however (science, religion, education and legal consequences),
is perhaps even more intuitive in the current study, given the nature of the controversy of
interest. Intelligent Design is a tii\/iic discussion of a Designer in science and the
earths' origins, and the controversy under examination took place in an educational
setting. Justifying the possibility of a political involvement frame, Kintz and Lesage
(1998) argue that the political influence of religious Americans is hard to deny. The fifth
frame is a legal consequences frame. According to Gedicks (1992), many Americans
who cherish religious values in public life decry what they claim to be hostility toward
religion in both America's mass media and judicial systems. Gedicks further points out
that such Americans cite Federal District and Supreme Court rulings on the separation
clause as evidence of such hostility. For this reason, and because this study analyzes
media coverage of what many consider to be a church-vs.-state issue, a legal
consequences frame is included in research question one.
RQ1: Will newspapers frame the Intelligent Design debate in school boards more
as science, religion, educational consequences, political involvement, or legal
consequences? Which of the five will be the dominant frame?
Intelligent Design proponents typically shy away from Creationist and
Fundamentalist labels to describe the movement in general, and themselves in particular.
Martin et al. (2004), however, found that more than half of newspaper articles covering
ID used such descriptors at least once. Research questions two and three deal with this
RQ2: To what extent will journalists use "Creationist" and "Fundamentalist" terms
and descriptors in portraying the Intelligent Design debate in Ohio's school board?
RQ3: Are use of "Creationist" and/or "Fundamentalist" descriptors/terms frequent
predictors of tone?
Since the Scopes Trial in Dayton County Tennessee took place in 1925,
controversies involving evolution and Creation have received large amounts of national
media coverage. Perhaps most famously, journalist H.L. Mencken traveled to Tennessee
during the Scopes Trial and wrote columns highly critical of the lifestyles and education
of those opposing evolution (Ingraham, 2003). Similarly, when the Kansas school board
voted to de-emphasize evolution in 1999, criticism rained on the Midwestern state from
publications the country wide (Byrne, 1999). Much of this negative coverage came from
sources outside of Kansas; one headline from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette cautioned
"Don't let Creationists Corrupt Science Standards" (Kristalka, 2001, p.1). Research
questions four and five deal with differences in coverage between Ohio-based sources
and those located elsewhere.
RQ4: Is the location of the news source a frequent predictor of overall article tone?
In other words, are news sources outside of Ohio more likely to publish negative, positive
or neutral coverage of the school board debate?
RQ5: Are sources outside of Ohio more or less likely to use Creationist and/or
One of the criticisms of scientific coverage in the mass media involves journalists'
tendency to present new scientific developments with unwarranted acceptance and
validation (Friedman, Dunwoody & Rogers). Research Question six involves scientific
uncertainty vs. acceptance in newspaper coverage of Ohio's school-board debate.
RQ6: Does newspaper coverage of the Ohio school board controversy present
Intelligent Design more with scientific uncertainty, scientific denial or scientific
One of the central debates of the Intelligent Design movement is that of religion vs.
science. In fact, many books and journal articles written on the topic of ID serve to
debate this very tandem (Peterson, 2002). Research question seven addresses this debate.
RQ7: Is the Intelligent Design debate in public schools portrayed more as a
religious issue or as a scientific issue?
This study analyzed newspaper coverage of a public school board debate on
Intelligent Design, which took place from 2000 to 2004; these dates ranged from the
beginning of the school board controversy in Ohio to its completion, signified by the
boards' passage of the Academic Freedom Act of 2004. Methodology consisted of
quantitative content analysis.
The entire newspaper article was the unit of analysis for this study (N=268), except
when the tone of each frame was analyzed. In those cases, the unit of analysis was an
individual frame. The sample consisted of hard news articles (n=125), columns (n=42),
editorials (n=24) and letters to the editor (n=77), while book reviews and community
calendar items were pared from the sample. Full text articles were garnered from the
LexisNexis database using the following search terms: "Intelligent Design" paired with
the term "Ohio." Articles were collected from the "major newspapers" designation under
the "General News" category under the "U.S. News" heading of the LexisNexis archive.
Impertinent articles (such as those dealing with "intelligent design" in architecture) were
not included in the sample. Articles in the sample ranged from April 14, 2000 to April 8,
Coding Instrument and Coding Scheme
The coding instrument was constructed from categories used in prior literature
examining the relationship between religion and science in the media (Martin et al.,
2004;Kerr & Moy, 2002; Huckins, 1999; Friedman, Dunwoody, Rogers, 1999; Silk,
1995; Kelstedt, Lyman, and Smidt, 1991). Considering such research and the current
research questions, categories were developed to analyze the units of analysis.
The codesheet (Appendix A) consisted of the following categories: (1) Coder
name; (2) Article number; (3) Article date; (4) Publication of article; (5) Location of
publication; (6) Word Count; (7) Type of Article (hard news, column, editorial, etc.); (8)
Location/Section article appeared in; (9) Article Headline; (10) Overall tone of article;
(11) Use of "Creationist" terms (presence of words Creationist or Creationism); (12) Use
of "Creationist" descriptors (specifically using the word Creationism or Creationist to
refer to Intelligent Design proponents); (12) Creationist count (number of times
Creationist terms and/or descriptors were used); (13) Use of "Fundamentalist" terms
(presence of words Fundamentalist or Fundamentalism); (14) Use of "Fundamentalist"
descriptors (specifically using the words Fundamentalist or Fundamentalism to describe
ID proponents); (15) Fundamentalist count (number of times Fundamentalist terms and/or
descriptors were used); (16) Scientific uncertainty, scientific acceptance or scientific
denial; (17) Scientific vs. religious portrayal (whether the article generally treated the
Intelligent Design movement/ID conference as a scientific or religious
movement/conference); (18) Memorable quote (coders were asked to provide any
sentence/statement from the article that was particularly grabbing, biting, poignant, etc.).
The final categories addressed the presence/absence of five frames: science, religion,
education, political involvement and legal consequences. Coders also indicated the tone
of frames, when the frames were present in the story. Also, coders were asked to indicate
which one of these five frames was dominant.
Coders documented coding decisions on printed codesheets (Appendix A),
whereby they coded the articles by hand, and the decisions were later entered into a
statistical software package. The coders, two college graduates outside of the
communications discipline, were given codebooks (Appendix B) containing all categories
and specific instructions of how to code each article. Coders were instructed to work
alone but consulted with the researcher when specific problems came up. Coders were
told to read the article as many times as needed in order to analyze it accurately.
Coders analyzed a random sub-sample of roughly 5 to 10 percent of the sample (14
articles) to test intercoder reliability, which was 0.86, and was obtained using Holstis'
formula. This sub-sample was randomly stratified in order to include hard news articles,
editorials, columns and letters to the editors.
Omnibus tests of significance were conducted using cross-tabulations of the
categorical variables and subsequent Chi-square tests of independence. The Cramer's V
statistic was obtained to measure the strength of the association between categorical
variables. Adjusted Standardized Residuals were obtained to determine where the most
significant differences were in respective contingency tables. Adjusted standardized
residuals (ASR's) act as z-scores and indicate significant differences between certain
cells in a contingency table. ASR's greater than 11.96| are significant at an alpha level of
Intercoder reliability was calculated using Holsti's formula: IR=2M/(N1+N2), where M is the number of
agreements between the coders, NI is the total number of coding decisions made by Coder 1 and N2 is the total
number of coding decisions made by Coder 2.
A total of 266 articles were published and then made available on the Lexis Nexis
database during the roughly four years of controversy over public school science
standards in Ohio. The sample consisted of hard news articles (n=125), columns (n=42),
editorials (n=24) and letters to the editor (n=77). Table 4-1 contains basic frequencies.
Hypothesis one predicted that the tone of newspaper coverage of the Intelligent
Design debate in public schools would be negative, and that tone would differ across
news type. Hypothesis one was not fully supported, although negative coverage did
outnumber positive coverage; the tone of the majority of the coverage was neutral
(48.5%), followed closely by negative coverage (38.8%), and finally by positive coverage
(12.3%). Also, the tone of the articles did not differ across article type quite as
predicted. Please see Table 4-1 for these results.
The tone of the articles differed significantly across news type (X2 (6, N=268) =
153.207, p<.0001), and the association was moderate to strong (Cramer's V = .536,
p<.0001). Adjusted standardized residuals indicate that hard news articles tended to be
significantly neutral (86.4%), letters to the editor tended to be negative (55.8%) or
positive (32.5%), and columns (69%) and editorials (73.9%) tended to be negative.
Research question one asked if newspapers would frame the Intelligent Design
debate in school boards more as science, religion, educational consequences, political
involvement, or legal consequences, and also which of these five frames would be
dominant over all. Overwhelmingly, the most common central, organizing frame
journalists used to cover the ID controversy in Ohio's public schools was science (present
in 82.8% of the articles). Educational consequences was the next most common frame
(present in 60.4% of articles), followed by Religion (51.5%) and Political Involvement
(16.8%), and finally Legal Consequences (4.90%). In addition to listing all the frames
present in the articles, coders also were asked to choose one of the five frames that was
dominant overall. The most common dominant frame in the articles was Science
(dominant in 48.9% of all articles). Educational Consequences was dominant in 25.9%
of all articles, Religion in 16.5%, Political Involvement in 6.8%, and Legal Consequences
was dominant in 1.9% of all articles.
Religion frames were overwhelmingly negative (74.1% Negative; 8.6% Positive;
17.3% Neutral), as were Science frames (57.4% Negative; 12.6% Positive; 29.6%
Neutral). Educational Consequences frames were mostly neutral (51.2% Neutral; 37.2%
Negative; 11.6% Positive), and so too were Political Involvement frames (77.8% Neutral;
20% Negative; 2.2% Positive). Legal Consequences frames were mostly neutral (50.0%
Neutral; 35.7% Positive; 14.3% Negative). Please see Table 4-1 for these results.
Creationist and Fundamentalist Terms and Descriptors
Research question two regarded the extent to which journalists used "Creationist"
and "Fundamentalist" terms and descriptors in portraying the ID debate in Ohio's school
Creationist terms were present in roughly half (49.3%) of the articles in the sample,
and Creationist descriptors nearly as often (43.3%). Fundamentalist terms were present
in just 4.5% of all articles, and Fundamentalist descriptors were used in 3.0% of all
articles in the sample. Please see Table 4-1 for these results. Creationist terms were
present in a majority of hard news articles (53.6%) and editorials (66.7%). Such terms
were present in exactly half of all columns (50.0%), and in a minority of letters to the
Research question three asked whether "Creationist" and/or "Fundamentalist"
descriptors/terms are frequent predictors of tone.
The presence of Creationist terms differed significantly across categories of article
tone (X2 (2, N=267) = 7.78, p=.02). The association between these two variables was
moderate (Cramer's V = .171, p= .02). Roughly half (50.8%) of articles neutral toward
ID contained Creationist terms, while more than half of negative articles (54.8%)
contained Creationist terms. Adjusted standardized residuals suggest that the significant
differences in this contingency table (see Table 4-3) lie in positive articles; Creationist
terms were present in just 27.3% of articles positive toward ID.
The presence/absence of Creationist descriptors in articles covering the Intelligent
Design movement was associated slightly more with article tone [X2 (2, N=267) = 10.97,
p=.004); Cramer's V = .203, p< .004] than was the presence of Creationist terms.
Approximately half of all articles negative toward ID (51%) contained Creationist
descriptors, that is, they contained specific references to the ID movement or its
proponents as "Creationist(s)." Again, the most significant differences in this cross-
tabulation (see Table 4-4) lie in relation to positive articles; Creationist descriptors were
present in only 18.2% of articles positive toward Intelligent Design. Because
Fundamentalist terms were present in only 4.5% of all articles, cross-tabulation of
presence/absence of such terms and article tone was not feasible.
Location of Publication and Treatment of the Intelligent Design Controversy
Research question four asked if the location of the news source is a frequent
predictor of overall article tone.
The tone of articles on the school-board controversy over ID differed for articles
inside and outside the state of Ohio, although the relationship between these variables is
somewhat modest [X2 (2, N=267) = 10.40, p=.006); Cramer's V = .197, p = .006]. Forty-
two percent of articles from publications outside Ohio were negative toward Intelligent
Design, none were positive, and more than half (57.9%) were neutral. Regarding articles
published inside Ohio, the distribution was somewhat more evenly divided; roughly half
(46.2%) of articles published in Ohio were neutral, 38.l1% were negative and 15.7% were
positive. Please see table 4-5 for these results.
Research question five asked whether or not sources outside of Ohio were more or
less likely to use Creationist and/or Fundamentalist descriptors.
The presence of Creationist terms differed between Ohio-based sources and those
located outside Ohio (X2 (1, N=268) = 8.78 p=.003) and the association between these
two variables was modest (Cramer's V = .181, p=.003). Sources located outside Ohio
used Creationist terms in coverage of the Intelligent Design controversy 66.7 percent of
the time, while sources inside Ohio used such terms in just 44.5 percent of the articles.
Please see table 4-6 for these results.
The relationship between the location of the publication and the presence/absence
of Creationist descriptors was not as strong [(X2 (1, N=268) = 4.875, p=.027); Cramer's
V = .135]. Articles from sources within Ohio contained Creationist descriptors 39.8
percent of the time, while Creationist descriptors were present in 56.l1% of articles from
sources outside Ohio. (Again, Fundamentalist terms and descriptors were not present in
enough articles for contingency tables to be feasible). Please see table 4-7 for these
Scientific Uncertainty, Scientific Acceptance and Scientific Denial
Research question six asked whether newspaper coverage of the Ohio school-board
controversy would present ID with scientific uncertainty, scientific denial or scientific
Newspaper articles covering the Intelligent Design controversy in Ohio's public
schools generally presented ID as scientifically uncertain (42.5%), while a substantial
minority of articles presented ID with outright scientific denial (37.3%). A small
minority of articles (10.4%) presented ID with scientific acceptance. Please see Table 4-
1 for these results.
Scientific acceptance vs. scientific uncertainty and denial differed across type of
newspaper article (X2 (9, N=268) = 88.896, p<.001) and the association between these
two variables was substantial (Cramer's V = .333,p<.001). Hard news articles generally
presented the ID controversy in Ohio as scientifically uncertain (60.0%), but also
presented the controversy with a substantial amount of scientific denial (17.6%). Very
few hard news articles granted ID scientific acceptance (4.0%). Half of all letters to the
editor (50.6%) presented ID with scientific denial, while a fourth (26.0%) granted ID
scientific acceptance. Roughly a fifth (19.5%) of letters to the editor presented ID with
scientific uncertainty. More columns presented ID with scientific denial (57.1%) than
with scientific uncertainty (35.7%), and only a handful of columns extended scientific
acceptance (7.1%) to ID during the Ohio controversy. Editorials were perhaps the most
skeptical of ID, as 62.5 percent cast scientific denial toward the movement. More than a
third of all columns (37.5%) presented ID with scientific uncertainty, and not one (0.0%)
presented ID with scientific acceptance. Please see Table 4-8 for these results.
Scientific vs. Religious portrayal
Research question seven asked whether or not the ID debate in public schools
would be portrayed more as a religious issue or as a scientific issue.
Newspaper articles covering ID controversy in Ohio's public schools generally
portrayed ID as a scientific (41.4%) issue, but portrayed ID as a religious issue nearly as
Table 4-1, Frequencies
Type of newspaper article
News Articles 46.6% 125
Letters to the Editor 28.7 77
Editorials 9.0 24
Columns 15.7 42
Positive Tone 12.3% 33
Neutral Tone 48.5 130
Negative Tone 38.8 104
Location of article
Inside Ohio 78.7% 211
Outside of Ohio 21.3 57
Presence of creationist terms
Present 49.3% 132
Absent 50.7 136
Presence of creationist descriptors
Present 43.3% 116
Absent 56.7 152
Present 4.50% 12
Absent 95.5% 256
Scientific Acceptance vs. Scientific Uncertainty
Scientific Uncertainty 42.5% 114
Scientific Acceptance 10.4 28
Scientific Denial 37.3 100
Unable to Tell 9.7 26
Scientific vs. religious portrayal
Scientific 41.4% 111
Religious 39.6 106
Unable to Tell 17.9 48
Frames present in articles
Religion 51.5% 138
Educational Consequences 60.4% 162
Political Involvement Frame 16.8% 45
Science Frame 82.8% 222
Legal Consequences 4.90% 13
Tone of frames
Negative 74.1% 103
Positive 8.60 12
Neutral 17.3 24
Negative 37.2% 61
Positive 11.6 19
Neutral 51.2 84
Table 4-1, Continued
Negative 20.0% 9
Positive 2.2 1
Neutral 77.8 35
Negative 57.4% 128
Positive 12.6 28
Neutral 29.6 66
Negative 14.3% 2
Positive 35.7 5
Neutral 50.0 7
Dominant frame in articles
Religion 16.4% 44
Educational Consequences 25.7 69
Political Involvement 6.7 18
Science 48.5 130
Legal Consequences 1.9 5
Table 4-2, Tone of Article across Type of News Article
Hard News Letters to the Editor
Negative n=15 43
ASR= -4.8 ASR= 2.4
Positive 2 25
ASR= -3.4 ASR= 5.0
Neutral 108 9
ASR= 6.0 ASR= -4.7
n= 125 77
Total 100% 100%o
Chi Square (6, N = 267) = 153.207 p <.0001
Cramer's V = .536, p<.0001
ASR = -1.1
Adjusted Residuals (ASR) > 11.96| are significant at a<.05
Table 4-3, Presence of Creationist Terms across Article Tone
Negative Positive Neutral
Presence/Absence of Terms
Creationist Terms Present n=57 9 66
54.8%% 27.3% 50.8%
ASR= 1.4 ASR= -2.7 ASR= .4
Creationist Terms Absent 47 24 64
45.2% 72.7% 49.2%
ASR= -1.4 ASR= 2.7 ASR= -.4
n= 104 33 130
Total 100% 100% 100%
Chi Square (2, N = 267) = 7.78, p = .02
Cramer's V = .171, p = .02
Adjusted Residuals (ASR) > 11.96| are significant at a<.05
Table 4-4, Presence of Creationist Descriptors across Article Tone
Negative Positive Neutral
Presence of Creationist Descriptors ____________
Creationist Descriptors Present n=53 6 57
51% 18.2% 43.8%
ASR =1.2 ASR = -2.2 ASR = .1
Creationist Descriptors Absent 51 27 73
49.0% 81.8% 56.2%
ASR = -1.0 ASR = 1.9 ASR = -.1
n= 104 33 130
Total 100% 100% 100%
Chi Square (2, N = 267) = 10.97 p
Cramer's V = .203, p = .004
Adjusted Residuals (ASR) > 11.96| are significant at a<.05
Table 4-5, Location of Publication across Article Tone
Negative Positive Neutral Total
Location of Publication
Publication Located in Ohio n=80 33 97 210
38.1% 15.7% 46.2% 100%
ASR = -.2 ASR = 1.4 ASR = -.5
Publication Located outside of Ohio 24 0 33 57
42.1% 0.0% 57.9% 100%
ASR = .4 ASR = -2.7 ASR = 1.0
Chi Square (2, N = 267) = 10.97 p = .004
Cramer's V = .203, p = .004
Adjusted Residuals (ASR) > 11.96| are significant at a<.05
Table 4-6, Location of Publication across Presence of Creationist Terms
Presence/Absence of Creationist Terms
ASR = -1.0
ASR = 1.9
Chi Square (1, N = 268) = 8.783, p = .003
Cramer's V =.181, p = .003
Adjusted Residuals (ASR) > 11.96| are significant at a<.05
Location of Publication
Publication Located in Ohio
Publication Located outside of
ASR = -1.8
Table 4-7, Location of Publication across Presence of Creationist Descriptors
Presence/Absence of Creationist Descriptors
Creationist Descriptors Creationist Descriptors Total
Location of Publication
Publication Located in n=84 127 n=211
39.8% 60.2% 100%
ASR -.8 ASR= .7
Publication Located outside 32 25 n=57
56.1% 43.9% 100%
ASR= 1.5 ASR =-1.3
Chi Square (1, N= 268)= 4.875, p = .027
Cramer's V =.135, p = .027
Adjusted Residuals (ASR) > 11.96| are significant at a<.05
Table 4-8, Scientific Acceptance/Uncertainty across Article Type
Vs. Scientific Acceptance
Scientific Uncertainty n=75
Scientific Acceptance 5
ASR = -2.2
Scientific Denial 22
ASR = -3.6
Unable to Tell 23
ASR = 3.1
Letters to the
Chi Square (9, N = 268) = 88.896, p < .001
Cramer's V = .333, p < .001
Adjusted Residuals (ASR) > 11.96| are significant at a<.05
ASR =-.7 ASR= -.4
-.7 ASR =-1.6
ASR = 2.1 ASR = -2.0
ASR = -2.0 ASR = -1.5
Overall, newspaper coverage of the Intelligent Design controversy in public
schools was fairly balanced. Roughly half of all coverage was neutral, and the remaining
half was either negative or positive. When Martin et al. (2004) examined the universe of
major newspaper coverage of the ID movement, they found that the majority of the
coverage was negative. The current study seems to suggest, then, that media coverage of
ID is becoming somewhat more objective or, at least, was somewhat more objective in
the case of Ohio.
Hard news articles tended to be overwhelmingly neutral, editorials, columns and
letters to the editor tended to be more negative than positive. Martin et al. found similar
results, although letters to the editor in their study tended to be strongly positive toward
Intelligent Design, a trend which possibly suggests public support for ID. In the case of
Ohio, however, letters to the editor published in major newspapers did not seem to
parallel public opinion as closely as one might have anticipated (after all, a Gallup poll
cited earlier in this paper suggested that 65 percent of Ohioans favored the inclusion of
ID in public school curricula). A seemingly large number of academics weighed in on
the debate; one biochemist from Ohio State University said that "there is no. scientific
literature supporting the concept of Intelligent Design," (Schoenberg, 2000, p.2).
Another professor, one of entomology, proclaimed that "Evolutionary theory receives
virtually unanimous support among scientists in general," (Wenzel, 2004, p.1).
Perhaps fewer Ohioans supported the idea of Intelligent Design in public schools
than did residents of Kansas and Alabama, where similar controversies unfolded. Ohio
may be less of a religious stronghold than these two states. Still, there was a marked
difference between the tone of editorials and that of letters to the editor, suggesting a
substantial difference between public support for ID and support from journalists. Since
editorials are the collective views of newspapers, some researchers (see Hindman, 2003)
have used editorials to gauge media opinion on certain topics. In the case of the
Intelligent Design controversy in Ohio's public schools, the collective, journalistic stance
on ID's presence in public schools was noticeably different than that expressed in letters
to editors of major newspapers. One Columbus Dispatch editorial ("Don't Compromise,"
2002, March 12) flat-out called Intelligent Design "unscientific," while referring to
Darwinian evolution as strict science. Another editorial in The New York Times
("Darwinian struggle in Ohio, 2002, March 17) admonished that, "No theory" advocating
"the supernatural," belongs in public schools.
A 2002 Gallup poll conducted in Ohio suggested that a majority of Ohioans
supported the inclusion of Intelligent Design in public schools, yet the majority of letters
published on this topic were critical of the movement. A greater percentage of letters to
the editor, however, were positive than that of hard news coverage, columns or editorials.
This likely represents the differences between Ohioans' feelings about ID's inclusion in
public school curricula and that of journalists'.
In terms of framing, "Science" was the central, organizing theme used to present
the Intelligent Design controversy in Ohio's public schools. One New York Times article
(Glanz, 2002) devoted 708 words to describing the scientific arguments that one Case
Western Reserve University professor and ID advocate makes. This was common in the
articles; journalists frequently covered the scientific positions of advocates on either side
of the controversy.
Friedman, Dunwoody and Rogers (1999) complained that journalists present new
scientific movements with unwarranted certainty. They did not, however, act as casually
in the case of the Ohio controversy. So while journalists mainly discussed the scientific
evidence surrounding ID, they did so with skepticism and without giving the movement
undue credit. For example, in The New York Times article cited above, Glanz (p.1)
discussed an ID proponents' idea, but also criticized him by saying "he drifted outside his
field and began proposing radical revisions to some basic laws of physics." In this case,
Glanz appears to have overstepped his journalistic role, but much of the coverage of the
ID controversy was scientifically skeptical and harsh in this way. Starr (2002) argued that
editors, as well as professors in journalism schools, have recently emphasized the
importance of detailed and quality science reporting, a genre of journalism that is
growing. The results of this study seem to support Starr's assertion in a mixed way;
skeptical scientific exposition was evident in much of the coverage of the ID controversy
in Ohio, but sometimes that coverage was harsh to proponents on one side of the debate.
"Educational Consequences" was the next most common organizing theme present
in the articles. This may help explain why the coverage was, overall, reasonably
balanced; journalists tended to discuss the scientific pros and cons of the ID controversy
in terms of scientific evidence. Journalists also discussed the educational implications of
the scientific controversy in mainly descriptive, not speculative, terms. One Washington
Post article's (2002, p.1) headline read, "Ohio may debate evolution in schools; theory's
flaws could be taught," and this article framed ID in terms of its educational
Religion frames were also present a great deal in the articles. This makes sense;
Intelligent Design is an inherently religious idea, and coverage of the controversy
drummed up heavy questions. One article ("Matters of fact vs. matters of faith," p.1,
2002, June 4, p.1) which contained a religion frame asked, "Could a guiding force be
behind evolution? Of course, but ... the Intelligent Design theory merits discussion in a
philosophy or religion class, where discussions of faith, belief and other nonscientific
inquiries into life's mysteries are appropriate."
Journalists did not frequently employ "Political Involvement" and "Legal
Consequences" as central organizing themes of stories. This may also be a good thing;
journalists discussed ID in terms of its scientific merits and in terms of the educational
implications of its inclusion in public schools.
In terms of the tone of the frames, Science and Religion frames tended to be more
negative than positive -something that may again reflect the uncertainty with which
reporters approached the ID controversy-and Educational Consequences, Political
Involvement and Legal Consequences frames tended to be neutral. That Religion frames
were by far the most negative, central organizing theme used to present the ID
controversy lends itself to the fact that ID proponents describe ID as a scientific
discipline with scientific merits. ID adherent William Dembski (2004) argues that
although ID is religious in nature, it is a scientific, not a religious, idea. It makes sense,
then, that attempts to frame ID as a Religious movement would be negative. One column
from The Columbus Dispatch (Lauritzen, 2002, p. 13) contained Religion as the dominant
frame and demanded, "Intelligent Design isn't just bad science, it isn't science at all."
Gitlin (1980, p.7) claimed that frames are "largely unspoken and unacknowledged," and
they "organize the world for both journalists who report it and, in some important degree,
for us who rely on their reports." The central organizing themes emphasized in the
articles covering the ID controversy seemed to help organize this "world" for the
journalists and possibly for consumers who were exposed to coverage of this world.
Journalists do, however, tend to "organize" the "world" in different ways by selecting
some aspects of an issue for presentation over others. In the case of ID, journalists
tended to select scientific aspects surrounding the movement, as well as aspects involving
the educational consequences of ID.
While it appears that journalists did a fairly decent job maintaining balance in their
coverage of the ID controversy in public schools, they managed to do so without using
the most ostensibly neutral language to describe ID. Half of the articles under
examination in this study contained "Creationist" terms, and more than 40 percent of
articles contained "Creationist" descriptors. An example of a Creationist term can be
found in an article from The Columbus Dispatch (Lore, 2002, February 10, p.1), when an
ID advocate was explaining his position: "We're not a Creationist group; we don't want
Creationism in the schools." Creationist descriptors, however, were more direct, like the
following tag applied to ID in a Chicago Sun Times article ("Public schools are no place
for the 4th 'R,"' 2002, February 17, p.1). : "Creationism .. now going by the name
Intelligent Design." ID proponents typically defy this nomenclature and, indeed, many of
the articles mentioned the differences between ID adherents and their Creationist
predecessors. More than four in ten articles, however, specifically described either ID
advocates or the ID movement itself as "Creationist."
Fundamentalist terms and descriptors were much less common and were, in fact,
negligible. One reason for this may lie in the common use of the term "fundamentalist."
This word is commonly employed to describe fundamentalist Islam, and journalists may
be less likely to casually apply it to ID proponents. The whole of Intelligent Design
coverage from the late 80s to 2003 contained "fundamentalist" terms in roughly 12
percent of its coverage (Martin et al., 2004), but such terms were far less common in the
One reason that ID proponents shy away from Creationist and fundamentalist labels
is that they claim such terms are loaded and preclude journalistic balance. Cross-tabs of
the presence/absence of Creationist terms and article tone seem to bolster this assertion.
Articles containing Creationist terms were far more likely to be negative than positive.
The presence of Creationist descriptors was even more strongly associated with article
tone. When Walter Lippmann (1922) made common the word "stereotypes" as tools
journalists use to classify groups of people and to avoid detailed descriptions of group
members, he was referring to this kind of categorization. Many headlines of the articles
in this sample which were negative contained categorical, Creationist descriptors, like the
following headline from a Columbus Dispatch article (Durbin, 2000, April 15):
"Creationism doesn't meet criteria for science classes." Whether a large number of
journalists are deliberately applying these labels to ID proponents to shed doubt on the
movement or whether these labels are simply useful ways to convey the religious
advocacy among ID's followers, such words appear to affect the overall tone of the
Another aspect of major newspaper coverage of the ID controversy that apparently
affected the tone of the coverage was the location of the publication. Newspapers outside
Ohio were slightly more likely to publish articles negative toward the ID movement or, at
least, treated ID negatively in terms of the Ohio controversy. Amazingly, one article
from The Boston Globe (Falk, 2001, p.1) which was supposed to be hard news, had a
headline describing ID as a "pseudo-scientific challenge to evolutionary theory." Not one
article from outside Ohio was positive to ID in terms of the controversy in Ohio. In
Dayton County, Tennessee in 1925, when the Scopes trial brought the Darwinian
evolution controversy taking place in public schools to national attention, many elite
journalists traveled to Tennessee to cover the story. Many of these journalists were
disdainful of the positions taken by Creationists in Tennessee, and one journalist in
particular, H.L. Mencken, brutally ridiculed the "Bible-thumpers" in the land he would
eventually dub the "Bible belt." One imagines, although one cannot be sure, that
coverage of the Scopes Trial by newspapers in Tennessee might have been somewhat
more temperate than the coverage of outside journalists like Mencken and others.
Proximity seems to matter in journalism. The closer journalists get to a given
controversy, the more moderate and, sometimes, the more favorable their coverage of the
controversy becomes. Take the stroke of brilliance exercised by Bush administration
officials by embedding American journalists in Iraq during the first five weeks of conflict
in spring 2004; these journalists saw up close the determination exhibited by American
men and women in the armed forces. Coverage from these journalists was positive at
times and, even sometimes, fawning.
In the case of ID in Ohio, though, the influence of proximity on the tone of the
coverage may have been mediated by the fact that a majority of Ohioans supported ID's
inclusion in public school curricula. These Ohioans did, after all, write a great deal of
letters to the editor expressing such support, while letters on the Ohio controversy were
very rarely published, say, in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette or The New York Times.
Whatever the mediating factors, though, articles outside of Ohio were harsher on ID and
on its potential inclusion in public schools. One hard news article from The Australian
(2002) offered a headline that snidely remarked that the Ohio controversy was "unholy."
In line with the findings on publication location and article tone, articles located
outside of Ohio were much more likely to use Creationist terms and descriptors. This
again suggests, albeit it indirectly, that Creationist terms and descriptors share an
association with negative coverage of the ID controversy in Ohio. Journalists in Ohio
were less likely to use purportedly loaded terms to describe ID and its proponents, while
journalists outside the state were more likely to use such stereotypical terms that
Lippmann (1922) decried in Public Opinion. In an article published in The Ottawa
Citizen, one journalist used Creationist terms and descriptors six times in discussing the
ID controversy. An article in The Observer used such terms seven times.
The question of whether journalists presented ID with scientific uncertainty,
scientific acceptance or scientific denial was mentioned a bit earlier in this discussion;
journalists tended overwhelmingly to present ID with scientific uncertainty or outright
scientific denial. This type of coverage consisted of just under eight tenths of the entire
sample. Ten percent of the articles presented ID with scientific acceptance. The facts
that journalists were highly skeptical of ID during the Ohio controversy and few articles
seemed to extend scientific acceptance to the theory may suggest one of two things.
First, it may suggest that, unlike the claims of Wilkins (1999) and others (see also Singer
& Endreny, 1993), journalists are turning away from their old habits of lending undue
credence to new scientific developments in general. These findings may very well,
however, suggest that journalists were less accepting of the scientific claims of Intelligent
Design in particular. Intelligent Design carries with it undeniably religious implications,
and journalists are generally less religious than the average American. It may make
sense, then, that journalists treated the ID controversy with less certainty than they
frequently grant other scientific movements.
While journalists presented ID in the Ohio controversy with perhaps more scientific
denial that they should have, hard news articles, more than any other article type,
presented ID with scientific uncertainty. This suggests again that journalists did a fairly
good job of maintaining balance in hard news coverage of the ID controversy. Letters to
the editor were much more likely to extend scientific acceptance to Intelligent Design
during the controversy than were either columns or letters to the editor. This again
indicates a rift between public opinion about the ID controversy and journalists
sentiments about the debate. Thankfully and for the most part, journalists were able to
keep these sentiments about ID out of hard news coverage.
Newspaper articles covering the Intelligent Design controversy in Ohio's public
schools tended to portray the debate as one of science, and portrayed the debate as one
over religion almost as often. This is interesting for several reasons. First, the actual
debate that took place in the school board was largely scientific. In fact, according to
some members of the Ohio school board and professors who testified before the school
board, religious arguments and debate over religion were invoked somewhat infrequently
during the hearings before the board. Journalists, though, portrayed the ID debate as one
over religion as frequently as they portrayed the debate as over science. The controversy
between Intelligent Design and Darwinian Evolution inevitably energizes -almost
viscerally- some of life's most fundamental questions (Why am I alive?; Who or what
created me?; What process created me?) and, perhaps, is different from virtually any
other controversy. Journalists could not seem to keep from proposing some of these
religious and philosophical questions in their articles and, in so doing, portrayed the ID
controversy as one of religious debate. What is also interesting here is the parity between
the portrayal of the debate as one over science and religion. ID proponents cannot deny,
and indeed do not deny, the religious implications of their theory. These advocates are,
generally speaking, religious individuals who practice science both inside and outside of
the academic community as a way to confront Darwinian evolution. They are, then,
scientists who use evidence to oppose naturalistic evolution and evidence which supports
the notion of a Creator, a religious argument. This parity journalists offered during the
Ohio controversy, then, may be a somewhat accurate reflection of what the debate over
life's origins actually is. So, while portraying the controversy in Ohio as one over
religion may not have perfectly mirrored reality in the Buckeye State, this portrayal may
have been fair and realistic in terms of the ID debate as a whole.
In a perfect world, this study would have been able to analyze TV news coverage of
the ID controversy in Ohio as well as print newspaper coverage. One might predict that
televised coverage would emphasize less the scientific and religious aspects of ID and
instead discuss the movement in terms of educational consequences and public policy,
but this is only speculation. It was not possible to examine televised coverage in this
study because of financial and time constraints.
In addition to coverage on the controversy in Ohio, it seems desirable to consider
coverage from a similar controversy in Texas. It would be interesting to compare
coverage of ID from a progressive state like Ohio with coverage from a southern, more
conservative state like Texas. Again, time constraints precluded this comparison.
Future research might also include a category on the codesheet that looks at the
philosophy of the origins of life in some way. Many of the articles in this sample,
particularly letters to the editor, exhibited philosophizing on the part of the letter writer or
journalist. The origins of life debate forces many people to ask deep, philosophical
questions, and I think the consistent presence of such pensiveness in the sample warrants
investigation. The ID controversy is somewhat forceful as well as unique in the
questions it raises, and it might be interesting to examine patterns of such deep questions
in journalistic coverage of the movement.
Future research should look at more than just newspaper coverage of ID and related
controversies. Local news affiliates in Ohio likely covered the ID controversy on a
consistent basis; the controversy did, after all, drag on for several years. Other research
in the future may want to test some of the coverage of ID and related controversies using
experimental designs. For example, because some of the current research on media and
religion does not clearly demonstrate whether words like "Creationist" and
"Fundamentalist" are definitively negative, researchers might want to test identical
articles using pretest and posttest designs with the presence of "Creationist" and/or
"Fundamentalist" manipulated as an independent variable.
1) Coder Name
2) Number: Please enter the number of the article you are coding (001, 101, 202, etc.)
3) Date: Please enter the 6 digit date on which the article was published
4) Publication: Please enter the name of the publication in which the article was
5) Location: Please circle whether the publication is located in the state of Ohio or
1) Outside of Ohio
6) Word count: Please indicate how many words the article consists of:
7) Article type: please indicate which type of news article you are coding:
0) Hard news
1) Letter to the editor
8) Article placement: Please indicate on which page of the publication the article was
9) Headline: Please write, verbatim, the headline of the article.
10) Article tone: Please indicate if the article was, overall, negative, positive or neutral
toward the Intelligent Design movement.
11) Creationist Terms: Please indicate whether the article contained the terms
"Creationism," or "Creationist(s)."
12) Creationist Descriptors: Please indicate whether the article used the terms
"Creationism," or "Creationist(s) specifically to describe the Intelligent Design
movement or its proponents.
13) Creationist Count: Please indicate how many times the article used "Creationist"
14) Fundamentalist Terms: Please indicate whether the article contained the terms
"Fundamentalist(s)" or "Fundamentalism."
15) Fundamentalist Descriptors: Please indicate whether the article used the terms
"Fundamentalist(s)" or "Fundamentalism" specifically to describe Intelligent
or its proponents.
16) Fundamentalist Count: Please indicate how many times the article used
17) Scientific Acceptance vs. Scientific Uncertainty: Please indicate whether the article
generally presented the Intelligent Design movement with scientific acceptance or
0) Scientific Uncertainty
1) Scientific Acceptance
2) Scientific Denial
18) Scientific vs. Religious portrayal: Please indicate whether the article portrayed the
Intelligent Design movement as a scientific controversy or a religious one.
19) Memorable Quote: If the article contained a particularly humorous, sarcastic,
poignant, or clever statement/quote of any kind, please record it here:
20) Frames: Please indicate which, if any, of the following frames are among the
central, organizing concepts of the story:
2) Political Involvement
4) Legal consequences
21) Tone of Religion Frame: If a religion frame was present, please indicate the tone of
22) Tone of Educational Consequences Frame: If a religion frame was present, please
indicate the tone of the frame:
23) Tone of Political Involvement Frame: If a political involvement frame was present,
please indicate the tone of the frame:
24) Tone of Science Frame: If a science frame was present, please indicate the tone of the
25) Tone of Legal Consequences Frame: If a legal consequences frame was present,
please indicate the tone of the frame:
26) Dominant Frame: Please indicate which of the five frames is dominant. PLEASE
CHOOSE ONLY ONE
1) Educational Consequences
2) Political Involvement
4) Legal consequences
Please read the article from beginning to end and answer the questions on the
codesheet in the following way. Please feel free to read the article as many times as
needed to accurately analyze the content. Also, if questions or coding problems should
come up, please contact the author of this paper with your concerns (email@example.com).
Coder name: Please enter your first name.
Article number: Please enter the number of the article you are coding. Each article in
the sample was saved as a unique number; please enter that number here.
Article date: Please enter the 6 digit number specifying the date the article was published
("010104," for January 1st, 2004, e.g.).
Publication: Please enter the name of the publication in which the article ran. Do not use
capitals, italics or the word "the."
Location: Please indicate whether this publication is located in the state of Ohio or
whether the publication is located outside of Ohio.
Word count: If you are coding an electronic copy of an article, please copy and paste the
text of the article into Microsoft Word, select "tools," "word count" and then
enter this number. If you are coding a print version of the article, please give your
best estimate, to the ten (370, 230, etc.) of how many words the article contains.
Article type: Please specify the type of article you are coding. Indicate either hard news,
column, editorial or letter to the editor. Hard news typically begins with an
inverted pyramid lead and serves to objectively report a development of some
kind. Columns are opinion pieces written by a specifically named individual.
Editorials are the collective opinions of the publication and do not have one
specific author. Letters to the editor are reader responses.
Location: Please indicate the section and page of the publication in and on which the
article appeared. For instance, if the article appeared on page 17 of the metro
section, please record "metro 17." If the page (say, page 10) of the article is
known but not the section, please record "z 10." If neither is known, simply
Headline: Please provide, verbatim, the headline of the article. Do not use capitals or
punctuation of any kind.
Overall tone: Please indicate whether the article covering the school board debate was,
overall, negative, positive, or neutral toward the Intelligent Design movement.
Please do not immediately assume that an article is neutral. Many of the articles
will, of course, be neutral and unbiased toward the Intelligent Design movement,
and it is only appropriate to label them thus. That said, though, coding mass
media messages for tone is a somewhat ambiguous coding decision. After you've
read the entire article, reread the headline. Headlines, while frequently not
written by the journalist themselves and not always indicative of the news that
follows, can often help in coding articles for tone. Headline writers try hard to
capture the main sentiment of the article and, therefore, headlines can be helpful.
Next, look at the sources cited in the article. Journalistic fairness frequently
hinges on the type and number of certain sources cited in an article. If three
sources friendly to the ID movement are cited in the article, but only one source
critical or skeptical of the movement is offered, this imbalance may lend support
to the notion that the article is 'positive.'
Throughout the article, pay attention to diction. That is, pay attention for loaded
words. You are also asked to code for "Creationist" and "Fundamentalist"
descriptors. These words are often loaded and can aid you in your decision.
Researchers understand that coding media messages for tone can be difficult for
even the most trained readers. Simply try your best, though, to make careful
decisions, and try to make such decisions in a consistent manner. Remember, you
can contact the researcher whenever you have questions.
Use of "Creationist" terms: Please indicate whether the article contained the terms
"Creationism," or "Creationist(s)."
Use of "Creationist" descriptors: Please indicate whether the article used the terms
"Creationism," or "Creationist(s) specifically to describe the Intelligent Design
movement or its proponents.
"Creationist" count: Please indicate how many times the article used "Creationist"
Use of "Fundamentalist" terms: Please indicate whether the article contained the terms
"Fundamentalist(s)" or "Fundamentalism."
Use of "Fundamentalist" descriptors: Please indicate whether the article used the terms
"Fundamentalist(s)" or "Fundamentalism" specifically to describe Intelligent
Design movement or its proponents.
"Fundamentalist" count: Please indicate how many times the article used
Scientific acceptance, scientific uncertainty, or scientific denial: Please indicate
whether the article generally presented the Intelligent Design movement with
scientific acceptance or uncertainty. This judgment should generally be based on
whether or not the article presents Intelligent Design as a valid alternative to
Darwinism. Ask yourself, "is the journalist presenting ID as an organized,
legitimate challenge to evolution? Is the journalist depicting the movement as
scientifically uncertain? Is the journalist presenting the movement with scientific
denial?" If the article appears neutral and presents ID as a plausible alternative to
evolution, select "scientific acceptance."
Scientific vs. religious portrayal: Please indicate whether the article portrayed the
Intelligent Design movement more as a scientific controversy or a religious one.
This is a more subjective category. However, if the article mentions the academic
credentials of the speakers (such as holding a PhD or a lectern at a college or
university) then the classification may be scientific. If, on the other hand, the
article refers to ID specifically as a religious movement and/or "philosophical"
and "theological," the classification should be religious.
Memorable quote: If the article contained a particularly humorous, sarcastic, poignant,
or clever statement/quote of any kind, please record it here.
Frames: Please indicate which, if any, of the following frames are among the central,
organizing concepts of the story: religion, science, educational consequences,
political involvement and legal consequences. More than one of these frames can
be present in any given story. When deciding whether or not a certain frame is
present, ask yourself "is this concept central to the story's organization?"
Religion frame: Articles containing a religion frame, for instance, will present
Intelligent Design as a religious issue. Religion frames are present if the article offers a
discussion of the religious implications of ID as a central, organizing theme of the story.
Such an article may discuss religious individuals' support for ID. Often, but not always,
the religion frame is hinted at in the headline of the article or the articles' lead paragraph,
which will sometimes mention the efforts of religious proponents of the ID movement.
Science frame: Articles centrally organized by a science frame will generally
discuss the scientific merits of one or both sides of the ID debate. A science frame is
present, for example, if an article criticizes the scientific tenets of Intelligent Design, but
is also present if it discusses ID's merits, or both pro's and con's.
Educational consequences frame: Articles containing an educational
consequences frame will present the educational implications of ID as a central,
organizing part of the story. Articles discussing educational consequences need not be
only negative. Indeed, one article may describe the educational downfalls of
deemphasizing evolution, while another might describe the educational advantages of
having alternative points of view in Ohio's science classrooms. Other articles might
describe both consequences and be neutral.
Political involvement frame: Articles containing a political involvement will
usually discuss Ohio citizens' efforts to include ID in the state's science curriculum via
influencing the political process or persuading political officials. It may discuss the
efforts of small groups of individuals, like churches, or, it may discuss the efforts of large
groups, like the Boy Scouts of America, or the Family Research Council. In the same
way, articles may also discuss the efforts of opponents of ID to keep the theory out of
Ohio's classrooms. Such articles might discuss pressure being put upon school board
members, state legislators, education commissioners, or even Ohio's gubernatorial
administration. Indication of the political involvement frame, however, is in no way
limited to these specific circumstances.
Legal consequences frame: Articles presented within a legal consequences
frame will, quite simply, discuss the legal consequences of the decision to be made by the
school board of Ohio. Legal consequences frames will generally present the Intelligent
Design debate as well as the controversy in Ohio's public schools as issues between
church (or religious individuals) and the state. Articles organized within a legal
consequences frame, however, may not discuss the church/state issue. Instead, such
articles might only discuss the threats of some pro/anti ID groups to sue or take legal
action following a certain decision. It may also discuss the issue of amending the state
constitution or otherwise changing statutes, but not discuss the church/state issue.
Articles packaged within a legal consequences frame need not be negative or antagonistic
to intelligent design. However, any article which presents the Intelligent Design
controversy within the framework of a legal debate is one presented within this frame.
Tone for each present frame: For each frame that is present within the news story,
please indicate if the tone of that frame was negative, positive or neutral. Specifically,
return if need be to parts of the story that led you select a certain frame as present. Then,
ask yourself if that religious, scientific, organization, etc., of Intelligent Design was
negative, positive or neutral.
Dominant frame: Please indicate which of the five frames is dominant. Ask yourself,
"of the frames that are present, which one is the main, central organizing part of
this news story?" PLEASE CHOOSE ONLY ONE.
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Justin D. Martin was born in Washington, Pennsylvania. Family members include
parents Rev. William J. Martin and Sandra H. Martin, and sisters Ashley and Kelley.
Justin earned a B.S. in psychology from High Point University in December 2002. Justin
plans to pursue a Ph.D. in Mass Communications and an undergraduate minor in Arabic.
He currently resides in Gainesville with his dog, Samson, who frequently makes poor