Churnalism.com is an independent, non-profit website built and run by the Media Standards Trust to help the public distinguish between original journalism and ‘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.
We built churnalism.com as a public resource — to raise awareness about churnalism, to help people identify churnalism, and to encourage original journalism.
Churnalism.com works by indexing press releases (and some news articles) and then comparing them with news articles. The comparison is handled by Superfastmatch, with the website itself just acting as a thin front end.
The code for the site is open source.
You can see the press releases we currently cover here. We aim to increase our coverage of press release sources. If you know of a good source we’re missing, contact us or just send us patches.
The idea for churnalism first emerged back in 2006 when Tom Steinberg, Chris Lightfoot, Francis Irving and Martin Moore met for a sandwich on Parkers Piece in Cambridge. The technology behind the site was developed by Donovan Hide, with some help from Ben Campbell. The site was conceived and developed by Martin Moore and Ben Campbell with support from Gavin Freeguard and Camilla Schick. Chris Atkins helped to raise awareness about the site.
The site is run by the Media Standards Trust with funding from charitable foundations and donations. If you would like to discuss the site, or would like to offer suggestions as to how it could be improved, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.