For the last half of this semester’s seminar on Science, the Environment, and the Media that I am teaching at American University, students have been applying fundamental principles and theories from the first part of the course to understanding the dynamics of several contemporary science-related controversies.

You can find the reading list below, the earlier course readings here, and also read the blog posts that students have been writing across the semester.  See also posts from last year’s class as well.


  • Kwok, R. (2011, May 26). The Real Issues in Vaccine Safety.  Nature. (PDF).
  • Watch Frontline special “The Vaccine Wars.” [Online Video].
  • Watch interview segments with Seth Mnookin, author of the Panic Virus (Online Video).
  • Greenfield, K.T. (2010, Feb. 25). The Autism Debate? Who’s Afraid of Jenny McCarthy? Time magazine. [HTML]
  • Sonnies, S. (2011, Feb. 8). Frontline’s The Vaccine Debate: The Politics of Parents and Medicine. Age of Engagement blog at Big Think.com. [HTML]
  • Mikulak, A. (2011). Mismatches between ‘Scientific’ and ‘Non-Scientific’ Ways of Knowing and Their Contributions to Public Understanding of Science.  Integrative Psychological and Behavioral Science, 45, 2, 201-205. [Abstract]
  • Holton, A., Weberling, B., Clarke, C. E., & Smith, M. J. (2012). The Blame Frame: Media Attribution of Culpability About the MMR–Autism Vaccination Scare.  Health Communication. [Abstract]
  • Fowler, E. F., Gollust, S. E., Dempsey, A. F., Lantz, P. M., & Ubel, P. A. (2012). Issue Emergence, Evolution of Controversy, and Implications for Competitive Framing The Case of the HPV Vaccine. The International Journal of Press/Politics, 17(2), 169-189. [Abstract]


The Food Movement and Diet Debates

  • Taubes, G. (2011, April 13). Is Sugar Toxic? New York Times magazine. [HTML]
  • Saguy, A. C., & Almeling, R. (2008). Fat in the Fire? Science, the News Media, and the “Obesity Epidemic.”Sociological Forum, 23, 1, 53–83. [Abstract]
  • Hughner, R. S., McDonagh, P., Prothero, A., Shultz, I., Clifford, J., & Stanton, J. (2007). Who are Organic Food Consumers? A Compilation and Review of Why People Purchase Organic Food. Journal of Consumer Behaviour, 6(2 3), 94-110. [Abstract]
  • Pollan, M. (2009, July 2009). Out of the Kitchen, On to the Couch.  New York Times magazine (HTML]
  • PBS NOW special on Food Inc. [Watch Online Video].
  • Food Inc. Communication Engagement Guides [Planning Toolkit] [Community Action Guide]

Navigating Health Claims and Marketing

  • Caulfield, T. (2012).  The Cure for Everything: Untangling Twisted Messages about Health, Fitness, and Happiness. Boston, MA: Beacon Press. (Chapters 1). [Blackboard]
  • Palmer, E. L., & Carpenter, C. F. (2006). Food and Beverage Marketing to Children and Youth: Trends and Issues. Media Psychology, 8(2), 165-190.  [Abstract]


Energy policy in the context of the climate debate

  • Nisbet, M.C. (2009). Communicating Climate Change: Why Frames Matter to Public Engagement.  Environment, 51 (2), 12-23. [HTML]
  • Nisbet, M.C. (2009). Green Groups Rebrand Global Warming Around Public Health. Age of Engagement. [HTML]

Understanding the energy beat

  • Russell, C. (2009, Sept/Oct). The New Energy Beat. Columbia Journalism Review. [HTML]
  • Russell, C. (2011, April 8). The Importance of Energy Reporters. Columbia Review of Journalism. [HTML]

Clean energy technology

  • Eilperin, J. (2012, Jan. 20). Why the Clean Tech Boom Went Bust. Wired. [HTML]
  • Pew Center for People and the Press (2011, November). Partisan Divided Over Clean Energy Grows. [HTML]

Gulf oil spill and gas prices

  • Pew Project for Excellence in Journalism (2010, AUG. 25). How the Media Covered the Gulf Oil Spill Disaster. [HTML]
  • Pew Center for People and the Press (2012, March 19).  As Gas Prices Pinch, Support for Oil and Gas Production Grows. [HTML]

Nuclear energy

  • The Economist (2012, March 10). The Dream that Failed. The Economist. [HTML]
  • Friedman, S. (2011, Sept./Oct). Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, and Fukushima: An analysis of traditional and new media coverage of nuclear accidents and radiation. Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. [PDF]
  • Russell, C. (2012, March 12). Pessimism Reigns a Year after Fukushima. Columbia Journalism Review. [HTML]
  • Russell, C. (2011, March 14). What the Media Doesn‘t Get about Meltdowns. The Atlantic. [HTML]
  • Pew Center for the People and the Press (2011, March 21). Opposition to Nuclear Power Rises amid Japanese Crisis. [HTML]

See also student posts from last year’s course:

  • D’Angel, E. (2011, April 25). Analyzing the Frame Battle Over Coal as a Dirty Energy Source. Age of Engagement blog at Big Think.com [HTML]
  • Nagle, M. (2011, May 9). Gasland and Dirty Business: Documentaries Shape Debate on Energy Policy.  Age of Engagement blog at Big Think.com. [HTML]