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February 24, 2011 11:39 AM   Subscribe

"‘Churnalism’ is a news article that is published as journalism, but is essentially a press release without much added." Churnalism.com is a site created by the British charity Media Standards Trust, which lets you input the text of a press release to compare it with the text of news articles in the British media.

A couple of examples:
A research study from a polling company is over 90% churned in the Daily Mail
A press release from the NHS is churned to varying degrees by 14 different newspapers
The Churnalism FAQ has more background.
Also, earlier on Metafilter, how the press repeat and amplify stories that aren't true.
posted by DanCall (15 comments total) 38 users marked this as a favorite

 
This is so great. All countries should have one of these.
posted by mhoye at 11:44 AM on February 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


This is a Project, btw.
posted by grobstein at 12:28 PM on February 24, 2011 [3 favorites]


I second that we need one (or many) of these everywhere. I'd love to see one oriented toward drug company press releases.
posted by immlass at 12:31 PM on February 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


Fake Steve Jobs went after one of the founders of the Internet Press Guild for this sort of thing. There's plenty to say about why this happens (at least in the tech press), but it would just be making excuses for substandard product.

One way to spot churnalism, or at least content that's heavily dependent on a press release: An innocuous quote followed by the phrase "... said in a statement." A missing or ambiguous byline ("From Staff Reports", "By FooBar Staff") is also a tipoff.

It would be pretty neat to hook up a text extractor like that found in Readability to whatever backend Churnalism's got then come up with a Greasemonkey script to flag web pages as they're visited, or add some sort of churnalism dingbat to article listings on Google News.
posted by mph at 1:16 PM on February 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


Cut paste, cut paste, I first thought it is a posting about the German defense minister.
posted by yoyo_nyc at 1:34 PM on February 24, 2011


The word I use is "nontent". As in churnalists publish a vast array of nontent.
posted by dobie at 1:55 PM on February 24, 2011 [5 favorites]


@Grobstein - Aha - I didn't know that. Great project!
posted by DanCall at 2:14 PM on February 24, 2011


"AP" on a byline is also often a good indication that there's churnalism involved.

For my blog, I've occasionally discovered a story that I find interesting enough to dig up its source. Sometimes this means me calling up the company involved to see if I can get the original press release so I can just post that rather than linking to some bad rewrite of it (one of the funnest ones was the "Grinding Nemo" story, 'cause I exchanged a few emails with the JWC Environmental folks and know a few people in production over at Pixar).

What always amazes me isn't that some poor reporter decided to take a shortcut on the way to the story, it's how many inaccuracies get introduced in the rewrite. Mis-spellings, specific terms become vague, it's really kinda sad. And it's one of the reasons I'm so glad that my town's police department is releasing their stuff directly now. Yeah, I'm only getting one side, but when compared to the local paper, the direct police announcements and press release actually have a liberal slant...
posted by straw at 2:15 PM on February 24, 2011 [3 favorites]


This is quite brilliant.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 2:23 PM on February 24, 2011


A missing or ambiguous byline ("From Staff Reports", "By FooBar Staff") is also a tipoff.

Add newspaper website specialist blogs without clickable author bio pages, just an unlinked name. Known papers too, such as the Globe and Mail for example.
posted by infini at 2:55 PM on February 24, 2011


I love this kind of thing (the monitoring and mockery, that is, not the thing itself).

Another favorite of mine in the same vein is Kill or Cure?, a database of everything the Daily Mail says kills or cures cancer, or both. You'll be surprised!
posted by Sidhedevil at 3:45 PM on February 24, 2011 [4 favorites]


If you like this, then you'll probably like this. I cancelled all my newspaper subscriptions the day after I read this.
posted by Wantok at 5:00 PM on February 24, 2011


thirding the need for more of this.. maybe even more automated.
posted by 3mendo at 10:41 PM on February 24, 2011


Similar, but different: copyscape queries a broader range of pages, and only requires you to enter a URL, but it doesn't display any analysis of the content, only alerting you that "these sites appear to include a portion of text from your sourced page."
posted by filthy light thief at 10:20 AM on February 25, 2011


I used to have a friend who worked for the local council as promoter of council-organised events - try and get the public to come, that sort of thing. He complained that the biggest hardest part of his job was writing press releases. I was like, why? Council puts on fitness class for over-50s or bangladeshi culture weekend - hard! He was like, no, journalists won't use it unless they can straight copy it, some of them want a long article, some want a medium and some want a short one - you have to write all three of them in together so it looks like one press release but it's clear where to cut. For instance, do bullet points at the top so they can just use them as full sentences for a short article, then write the press release underneath so they can take the first two sentences from each paragraph and that makes a coherent medium-sized article... I was shocked journalists were so lazy, because most of what's in local papers here is drivel, surely they wrote it themselves? An hour would be a long time to spend...
posted by maiamaia at 12:13 PM on February 25, 2011


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