"What a load of old tosh!"
That was the reaction by a Facebook friend to a recent local story that appeared in a newspaper.
And there's more:
Anyone who didn't know better could be fooled into thinking, on reading this article, that X actually did something for the benefit of the Ypeople!I needn't go into the details as the malaise, otherwise known as churnalism, appears to be quite common.
- 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.
- In his book Flat Earth News, the British journalist Nick Davies reported a study at Cardiff University by Professor Justin Lewis and a team of researchers which found that 80% of the stories in Britain's quality press were not original and that only 12% of stories were generated by reporters. The result is a reduction of quality and accuracy as the articles are open to manipulation and distortion.
Those who are familiar with the facts will have no difficulty identifying a piece of churnalism; those who are not may well be taken in and so react inappropriately.
Switch on your critical faculties before you switch on your radio and tv and before you pick up a newspaper; what you hear, see or read may owe more to public relations than to journalism. Serious errors of fact should be passed to the relevant editor so that corrections can be published prominently and promptly.