Kudos to NBC. Unlike other major news reports, Dr. Nancy Snyderman's stories on NBC about new research on amniotic stem cells were detailed and straightforward.
Snyderman reported on the Nightly News on January 7 and on the Today Show (January 8) that amniotic stem cells are capable of producing a wide variety of human cell types, and that collecting them does not destroy a human embryo, as occurs in embryonic stem cell research.
NBC's treatment was comprehensive, non-sensational and politically neutral. In contrast, the CBS Morning News on January 7 gave the exciting research development a mere couple of sentences by the news reader. ABC's Good Morning America on January 7 included more detail than CBS, but politicized the story by using footage of actor Michael J. Fox's public service announcement for stem cell research that aired just before the election, along with President Bush's veto of stem cell funding.
The story also received incomplete treatment in the written press. On January 8, the Associated Press, Washington Post, and Los Angeles Times all quoted outside researchers who were cautiously optimistic about the new findings but quick to point out that amniotic stem cells might not fully replace the highly controversial embryonic stem cells. These stories failed to explain what, if anything, the amniotic stem cells could not replace in the therapeutic sense because research on embryonic stem cells has not yet cured any disease.
While The Washington Post and the LA Times articles did cursorily mention adult stem cell research, neither reported that adult stem cells have been used in numerous treatments for illness.
The AP story failed to mention adult stem cell research altogether and inaccurately painted President Bush as against all stem cell research.
Stem cell research funding is one of the key parts of the newly elected Democratic congressional majority's 100 Hour initiative. The Congress is due to put another stem cell research funding bill on President Bush's desk very quickly. It will be interesting to see how this new development affects the debate.
Kristen Fyfe is senior writer for the Culture and Media Institute.