‘Churnalism is a form of journalism in which press releases, wire stories and other forms of pre-packaged material are used to create articles in newspapers and other news media in order to meet increasing pressures of time and cost without undertaking further research or checking‘ (Wikipedia).
Churnalism.com is a non-profit website launched by the Media Trust to help members of the people distinguish between original journalism and ‘churnalism’. The website aims to show the public how much PR material is in the press. The site originally came about because of a comment made in Nick Davies’ book Flat Earth News where he stated that 54% of news material comes from PR. The website compresses articles published on national newspaper websites, BBC News and Sky News online and then stores them in a fast access database. It then allows anybody to paste text into the website where it will search for similar compressions. If the engine finds any articles where the similarity is greater than 20%, then it suggests the article may be churn.
In my opinion, the website gives the impression that PRO’s have an easy job of gaining coverage for a client from a news release. When really, this is not the case! I wonder how many news releases get deleted from mail boxes every day without a second glance?
At university we’re taught to write a news release that one interests the journalist and two is wrote in such a way that it will be used. So surely a Journalist using copy from the news release just means the PRO has done their job correctly?
Have Journalists become lazy? Are they no longer concerned whether the facts are accurate? As long as the story is ‘news worthy’ to their readers are they really bothered? Is it because of the tight deadline Journalists now work to that they are no longer worried about how much ‘truth’ the story holds?
A prime example of this is shown by Starsuckers. They created a film that tested how much truth is in the celebrity stories that dominate our news media. They particularly look at how much Journalists check the accuracy of stories before publishing them. The clip below shows just how easy it is to get a story into a newspaper…
I wonder if members of the public and PRO’s are now beginning to do some of the Journalist’s work for them?