DNA technology in the Portuguese tabloid press - CSI Portugal?
Department of Sociology University of Minho Braga, Portugal
Centre for Social Studies University of Coimbra Coimbra, Portugal
Two recent cases of missing children in Portugal " Joana Cipriano and Madeleine McCann " presented privileged opportunities to inquire into the tabloid press? discourses surrounding DNA technology uses and promises in criminal investigation contexts.
Our methodological approach draws on the principles of the grounded theory. We collected and analyzed news articles regarding both cases published by the highest circulating daily Portuguese newspaper. That analysis raised the prominence of categories such as certainty and dependence, which appear related to popular conceptions of objectivity and neutrality, but also to the images of a super-science disseminated in forensic science fiction TV series such as CSI. These associations may produce potential impacts in the public's representations of forensic science and particularly DNA technology.
We argue that the tabloid press's narrative constructions surrounding the use of DNA evidence in criminal investigations is based on a deficit model of the public understanding of science, which may explain the simplification and reduction of uncertainty regarding identification by DNA profiles. Simultaneously, television cultural references are appropriated by the tabloid press and merged into accounts of real cases, which may serve as sources of referential and interpretative frameworks of reality.