Thursday, February 24, 2011

Churnalism: when recycling goes bad

Churnalism. n. Journalism based significantly on a press release.

"There are more people working in PR than in journalism now."

"About 54% of news articles are derived at least partially from press releases."

I'd post original content, but I don't currently have time, so I'm just going to recycle a story. I wonder how different this piece is from the website's own press release.

Of course, even when journalists actually go beyond a press release, there is no guarantee of quality. I have been interviewed for a handful of news pieces, and have family and close friends who have been involved in dozens more pieces. Of these instances where I have had direct or very reliable knowledge of the story, I would estimate that more than three quarters of the published stories made basic factual errors, many of them non-trivial.

I have also been (briefly and part-time) a journalist and was frequently given press releases to work from (and not really expected to go beyond them).

Just because it is coming from a major news source doesn't mean it is news. In a recent post I warned against believing everything you read in comments on major sites. The moral of this story is, don't believe everything above the line either.