The new Churnalism.com site is an awesome service for tracking press releases which are reproduced in the mainstream media masquerading as proper journalism. Think of churnalism as lazy journalism and you’re half-way there.
The site lets you cut and paste selections of text from mainstream UK stories and check to see if they’re simply rehashed press releases sent out by various companies and organisations trying to sell an agenda or brand.
Of course there’s nothing intrinsically wrong with churnalism, if you’re happy to be fed corporate blather in place of real, objective news, but it’s a tad depressing for those with higher expectations to realise just how much mainstream ‘news’ reporting is commercially manufactured. Sign of the times, eh?
If you want to play the game yourself, one good way is to hop over to Google News and do a search for ‘survey’. Chances are a good proportion of the results will be churnalised stuff, especially if it features a multinational company name in the text somewhere. Oh and hit the ‘past month’ link on the left to ensure you’ve given the poor churnalists enough time to grab the content.
The really sad thing is you’ll notice how many of the smaller newspapers and publications have to resort to this modus because they cannot afford to pay real journalists to do primary work on it, or are too stretched to do the job properly. This is not a good time for the mainstream press at all.
Why did you build churnalism.com? We built the site as a public resource – to raise awareness about churnalism, to help people identify churnalism, and to encourage original journalism.…According to the Cardiff University research that informed Davies’ book, 54% of news articles have some form of PR in them…Some press releases are clearly in the public interest (medical breakthroughs, government announcements, school closures and so on). But even in these cases, it is better that people should know what press release the article is based on than for the source of the article to remain hidden.