One outstanding dispute that has recently been on the limelight was the MMR vaccine controversy. The issue has revolved around fraudulent publications of a medical journal research paper in the Lancet, that aided the later disgraced claims that Austin spectrum and colitis disorders could be, as a result, of the combined mumps, measles, and MMR vaccine rubella. There has been substantial criticism of the media for its supposed immature reporting and for giving unnecessary reliability to the mastermind of the fraud plot, Andrew Wakefield.
A journalist from the Sunday Times newspaper investigated and revealed that Wakefield had tampered with the evidence, had different implicit conflicting interests, and had also violated other ethical codes. In 2004, the publishers of the article partly withdrew it and in 2010, it fully withdrew the articles claim, and the general medical council declared the fraud mastermind guilty of serious professional conduct, this led to him being removed as a registered medical practitioner, meaning he cannot work anywhere as a doctor. Deer provided information in 2011 on the improper research practices carried out by Wakefield to the (BMJ) British medical journal. It described the original paper in an editorial as fraudulent the general agreement among scientist is that there is no proof to actually connects the vaccine to autism development, and that the medicine vaccine advantages by far out ways the described disadvantages.
Following the 1998 Wakefield claims, in the media items which were extensively reported; the rates of vaccines in Ireland and UK sharply dropped, which was significantly followed by increased mumps, measles incidences, resulting in permanent and severe injuries and even death. Medical journals, physicians and editors have described the actions of Wakefield as deceitful and linked them to the deaths and epidemics, and journal article in 2011 described the autism-vaccine connection in the last 100 years as being the most disturbing medical deception (DeStefano & Chen, 2001).
The nature of the controversy was that it was heavily characterized by substantial media coverage that included disturbing unreliable evidence from both the political and parent circles that through the provided media exposure attacked the government and the already peaked health services. With non-expert commentators writing almost 1257 of the items, it made the MMR issue be considered as the biggest 2002 science story. In the period between 2002, January and September, about 32% of all these articles on MMR mentioned the prominent people medically affected by the controversy, as compared to the other 25% that mentioned the frauds mastermind. In aIDition, studies that tried to prove whether the vaccine was actually safe were only focused in less than a third of the articles.
In the United Kingdom, the paper, video and press conference sparked widespread health fright, making it the actual reason as to why it was used as a catalyst to fuel the controversy and propel it to the national level it attained. Full confidence in MMR, due to the fright fell to 41% from the initial 59% after publication of the Wakeful research. 26% of family physicians in 2001 felt the government had failed to prove that there was any actual link between autism and MMR and bowel disease (General Medical Council, 2010).
If Wakefields claims had been replaced and removed by actual scientific evidence the outcome would have been increased exponentially, increasing the MMR vaccine confidence as it would have become clearer that the speculations were manipulated and fraudulent in nature. An example from a survey carried out in 2003 by various family doctors in the UK showed that an approximate 77% of them would assist in administering the MMR to a close family child with an autism history and that autism was thought by 3% of them as sometimes probably being caused by the offered MMR vaccine. In 2004, a similar study was carried out that showed that these perceived percentages increased to 82%, respectively and the MMR confidence over the last two years had been changing exponentially.
The different ways that the media published the story include; Sally Beck, a journalist from the daily Mail, in 2006, wrote the headline in their paper for the MMR vaccine controversy entitled, Scientists fear MMR link to autism,. In her analysis, the study seemed to find and confirm a connection between other medical related conditions and the MMR vacine. The Guardian newspaper reported that there were Fresh safety fears raised over MMR jab while, on the Sun publication, it was headlined New MMR link found to autism.
Each of the above media publications brought out a new aspect in the MMR vaccine controversy making it actually sound much worse than it actually was and in the process capitalizing on the fear created by controversy to sell their stories. An example is found in the Guardian article that highlighted that the vaccine injection made the child develop other severe health related complications. The Sun article claimed to prove the existence between the injection and autism. While the daily mail article pointed out to the parents that the disease not only promoted bowel disorders in children, but also increased the chances of developing autism in the patients (ONeil, 2006).
The main reasons that make the media so influential is that the public regards it as a fourth governmental branch which helps to keep institutions more accountable and honest. If there is no trust for the authority figures and business institutions, the media is seen as a civil guard, whose sole responsibility is to highlight what happens behind the scenes. One can argue on a more sinister level that peoples trust in the media might be due to the belief and ignorance that the media can be enlightening since, they are representatives of the truth.
There has been a creative and dramatic liberating impact on the media especially the advertising and reporting aspects which have been revolutionized greatly by new technology. Creatives mainly in the reporting and advertising fraternity were initially restrained and harnessed by the boundaries of not only what was traditionally available but also the geographical access and affordability to what was technically possible. As new technologies became more powerful and evolved, becoming more readily available and versatile in both smaller and larger markets. It gives creatives from different agencies room to think more widely and in more sophisticated ways. From this empowerment reproducing or altering reality became much easier to achieve. Another aspect that makes new technologies more efficient is on the reality that actual physical transport or travel has become less dangerous and visual communication more fluid and instantaneous. This notion is proved by the fact that with the improvement of new technology that is in line with the amount of global communication. The creative and conceptual perimeters have also been exponentially widened and from that media as a communication platform has gaining international audience and recognition making it an essential tool of communication and interaction.
New technology affects the publics perception of the controversy by the fact that the view that the public has on new technology has a vital role on the integration and acceptance of any of the new vaccine admittance. Social context has a critical role in risk assessment and receptiveness to introduction of new technologies to the public. In that if there is no significant need, a diminished benefits perception and an exaggerated perception of the dangers is often formed, and this is how media plays and capitalizes on the peoples ignorance to propagate their stories since they know people are gullible in many levels.
All controversies and conflicts that involve miscommunication problems have both an effect and cause. Misunderstandings, which originate from miscommunication, can easily cause a situation to be worse or create a conflict. In aIDition, once a conflict has started, the communication problems often further develop. This is because people in conflict do not have effective communication channels which can help them better reach a miIDle ground, making the mode of communication chosen to give the message a very critical tool of mitigating or further propagating the issue at hand.
The communication medium would help the people communicate more frequently and more accurately to remove the problem creating the controversy. Therefore, communication mediums are central to most conflict situations, and it is through them that both effective contingency measures and their direct opposite can be found.
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