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25.2.11

Journalism vs Churnalism



A new website launched today which seeks to name and shame journalists and publications caught recycling press releases.
Now we are no strangers to cut and paste journalism and I was probably guilty of in the past if I am honest when, as a journalist, I came a worthy piece of news wrapped up in an elegantly written press release.
In truth, at GREEN we are manned by many former journalists so most of our press releases are written in the manner would expect the journalist to write them for their particular publication.
Churnalism.com has been launched by the Media Standards Trust and takes up the baton from Guardian journalist Nick Davies - who popularised the term Churnalism, for journalism which is little more than re-writing press releases, in his 2008 book Flat Earth News.
The site invites people to paste press releases into it, Churnalism.com then compares the press release with news stories published online to reveal how much is apparently cut and pasted by the journalist.
Examples this morning include a press release from Asda stating that families are now £8 a week better off than a year ago, which was apparently 89 per cent cut and pasted into a story appearing on Mail Online.
Media Standards Trust Director Martin Moore said: "News organisations can now be much more transparent about the sources of their articles, but most of them still aren’t. Hiding the connection between PR and news is not in the interests of the public. Hopefully churnalism.com will nudge them to be more open about their use of PR material.
"Even with press releases that are clearly in the public interest - medical breakthroughs, government announcements, school closures, and perhaps even this website launch - it is still better that articles are transparent about their sources.
"Maybe churnalism.com will also encourage more original journalism. Exposing unoriginal churn may help slow the steep decline in the amount of original reporting that we’ve seen in the last few years."
That’s all very good but I suppose you have to pose the question if the story is good enough in a press release then right-minded journalists will use. If they have any doubts the first rule is always go back to the source and challenge the content
Full disclosure: This story was based on a press release from the Media Standards Trust and other coverage on various websites.

1 comment:

andy said...

I really welcome this ‘churnalism’ site – and hope it could be a permanent fixture.
It provides greater transparency about what is out there in the mediasphere. I can even envisage a number of PR people adding it to their evaluation tools to measure the extent of their campaigns!
We have witnessed the cut and paste era leading to ‘churnalism’; there has just been a time lag between the rise of that and potential tools like the ‘churnalism’ site to at least be more vigilant about lazy practices in journalism and enabling counter-point of views to identify the food chain of the information supply