The link between vaccination and autism is hotly debated in the media despite the fact that the alleged evidence is definitively disproven by the scientific community. The following paper contains the analysis of two articles, both of which deal with the matter from different perspectives. The first is an anti-vaccine article from Daily Mail, and the second is a comprehensive review of the phenomenon from the Skeptic Magazine.
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Both texts belong to the genre of periodical articles and share some similarities. The article by Parry is a publication in Daily Mail, a popular British tabloid, and demonstrates several writing conventions characteristic of the genre. First, both the word use and sentence structure of the article are simple enough to make the text approachable for a large number of people. The language is informal and does not use complex scientific terms despite the fact that it deals with controversial scientific issues (Bunn 80). In addition, the entire article is built around the commentary of a famous Hollywood actor on the scientific topic he has no professional authority about, which is a common move for tabloids. This also gives the author an opportunity to pick quotes that best fit her purpose of fueling suspicion about the possible dangers of vaccines. For instance, the text features multiple mentions of Vaxxed, a documentary that draws a connection between autism and vaccination, as opposed to only a single mention of Trace Amounts, a documentary that disproves the link (Parry). Next, the text has a characteristic title, which includes the key points of the article compiled into a single sentence (Dirk 255). Such text fulfills two goals: attracts the readers by mentioning a famous publicity person and outlines the rationale for the dangers of vaccination. In addition, it features prominent use of slang by calling a vaccine an “MMR jab,” which suggests its harmful impact (Parry).
The text is intended for the audience, which is either already hostile to vaccination or is predisposed to it. It also does not require a critical approach and relies mostly on first-order thinking since it features several logical fallacies that do not stand to scrutiny (Elbow 56). Therefore, the text can be characterized as a sensationalist newspaper article intended for the broad audience.
The second article is a much more focused text. The article attempts to address the issue of controversy and inform the readers of the current scientific consensus (briefly mentioned in the first article). The author uses many specific terms such as “intestinal biopsies” and “methylmercury” and provides numerous statistical measurements intended to prove the point (Hall). The author also cites the sources and encourages the readers to engage in independent inquiry, thus relying more on second-order thinking (Elbow 55). Nevertheless, it cannot be considered an academic publication in the strict sense as its structure, and word use are closer to popular science texts. It also occasionally uses informal and emotionally-charged constructions, referring to irresponsible research as “insanity” (Hall). However, the author avoids biases and makes the article as accurate as possible, which differs radically from the first text.
Therefore, we can conclude that the article is intended for readers who are capable of critical thinking and are familiar with fundamental principles of the scientific method – in other words, a fraction of the first article’s target audience.
To sum up, both articles are intended for the general audience, although the target audience of the latter is considerably smaller due to higher requirements. Both texts share some features of popular publications (word use, simplification, structure), although in the latter case, these are limited by the criteria of responsible journalism, making it less appealing to the public.
Bunn, Mike. How to Read Like a Writer. The Saylor Foundation, 2011.
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Dirk, Kerry. “Navigating genres.” Writing Spaces: Readings on Writing Volume 1, edited by Charles Lowe and Pavel Zemliansky, Parlor Press, 2010, pp. 249-262.
Elbow, Peter. Embracing Contraries: Explorations in Teaching and Learning. Oxford University Press, 1986.
Hall, Harriet. “Vaccines & Autism.” Skeptic Magazine, 2009, Web.
Parry, Hannah. “‘Let’s Find Out the Truth’: Robert De Niro Says Autistic Son Changed ‘Overnight’ after MMR Jab as He Says He Regrets Pulling Anti-Vaccination Movie from Tribeca Film Festival.” Daily Mail. 2016, Web.