February 23, 2011; Source: The Guardian | A new nonprofit website promises to shine a spotlight on "churnalism" – the practice by which news articles are directly copied from press releases. According to the Guardian, press releases and hoax stories have flooded newsrooms, threatening what’s left of the fourth estate’s legitimacy.
The new site, churnalism.com, revealed to the Guardian “how all media organizations are at times simply republishing, verbatim, material sent to them by marketing companies and campaign groups.”
Created by the charity, the Media Standards Trust, the site allows readers to paste press releases into a "churn engine" and compare the text with a constantly updated database of more than 3 million articles. The results, or "churn rating", show the percentage of any given article that has been reproduced from publicity material.
In an inspired bit of guerrilla marketing, independent film-maker, Chris Atkins, revealed how he “duped the BBC into running an entirely fictitious story about Downing Street's new cat to coincide with the site's launch.”
"People don't realise how much churn they're being fed every day," said Martin Moore, director of Media Standards Trust, which hopes the new site will improve standards in news. "Hopefully this will be an eye-opener."—Aaron Lester