In March 1997, the world learned that it may be possible to produce a cloned individual from an adult mammal. The universal question was, How long before someone will try it with humans? On January 6, 1998, National Public Radio reporter Joe Palca broadcast the answer: in the coming months, if Chicago-area physicist and sometime fertility researcher Richard Seed has his way.

The 10-minute dialogue touched off a media storm, with newspapers and television jumping on it all across the country. But science writers everywhere are questioning the story's validity. Is Richard Seed credible? Is there a realistic chance that he'll get the backing he needs?

Right now he doesn't have the money, he doesn't have a firm commitment from the physician who will perform the procedure, and he doesn't have an infertile couple willing to undergo the procedure, Palca admitted during the segment. Many science journalists were left wondering where the news value was.

Several prominent ones refused to cover it. Among those was Robert Lee Hotz, a science writer at the Los Angeles Times. He wanted confirmation...