Are you being churned? The wholesale use of press releases being used unedited by newspapers and websites is being challenged by a new tool in the US called Churnalism from the SunLight Foundation which follows the introduction some while back of a similar website in the UK, www.churnalism.com.
The US Churnalism tool looks to be more useful than its UK counterpart as you can paste in an URL of a story or text while UK Churnalism requires you to paste in the text of a press release. Both check against their databases to see just how much of an article is lifted straight from a press release.
This could be unfair on journalists in some cases where it would only be sensible to take a good proportion of a press release which is offering straightforward information, particularly with many newspapers under time and staffing pressures, but it is at least intriguing to see which organisations simply repeat value statements without comment or challenge.
There was an alarming example of Churnalism this week which wouldn’t be caught by either of these tools when the Daily Express in the UK churned itself by repeating a front-page splash from a couple of years ago on claims that white Britons would be in a minority by 2066. This churn, which came on the eve of a by-election and local council elections, was revealed on the BBC’s Papers Preview where the research team had managed to come up with a print of the original front page.
Independent publisher Melville House has a good piece by Ariel Bogle on Churnalism at www.mhpbooks.com.