Churnalism.com is an independent, non-profit website built by the Media Standards Trust to help the public distinguish between original journalism and ‘churnalism’.
What is ‘churnalism’?
‘Churnalism’ is a news article that is published as journalism, but is essentially a press release without much added. In his landmark book, Flat Earth News, Nick Davies wrote how ‘churnalism’ is produced by:
“Journalists who are no longer gathering news but are reduced instead to passive processors of whatever material comes their way, churning out stories, whether real event or PR artifice, important or trivial, true or false” (p.59).
According to the Cardiff University research that informed Davies’ book, 54% of news articles have some form of PR in them. The word ‘churnalism’ has been attributed to BBC journalist Waseem Zakir.
Of course not all churnalism is bad. Some press releases are clearly in the public interest (medical breakthroughs, government announcements, school closures and so on). But even in these cases, it is better that people should know what press release the article is based on than for the source of the article to remain hidden.
The site compresses all articles published on national newspaper websites, on BBC news, and Sky news online, into a series of numbers based on 15 character strings (using a hash function) and then stores them in a fast access database. When someone pastes in some text and clicks ‘compare’, the churn engine compresses the text entered and then searches for similar compressions (or ‘common hashes’). If the engine finds any articles where the similarity is greater than 20%, then it suggests the article may be churn.
And yes – I realise the irony in churning this out from their FAQ
Check it out……