Churnalism: More reactions to Nick Davies' book

More media bloggers have been reacting to Nick Davies’ new book, which argues that that “churnalism” is displacing journalism.

Roy Greenlade got the ball rolling yesterday, rounding up the national press reaction to Nick Davies’ book. He also condemned the responses from Independent on Sunday editor John Mullin, and News of the world managing editor Stuart Kuttner on yesterday’s Today programme.

“To say, parrot-like, that British journalism is the best in the world – which is what both did – is just not good enough.

“Better than what? The whole thrust of Davies’s argument, supported by evidence, merits serious, contemplative study rather than the Mullins-Kuttner top-of-the-head rejection.”

But City University’s head of journalism Adrian Monck is not impressed with the Flat Earth News thesis, or the Cardiff University study on which Davies basis his claim that most national newspaper journalism is, in fact, ‘churnalism’ based on PR and wire copy.

On his blog, Monck points out that examining the workload on national newspaper journalists cannot be done simply “link[ing] full-time employees to pagination”.

In the past two decades, electronic databases, computers, mobile phones and the Internet have made journalists more productive.

Quoting media scholar Michael Schudson, Monck notes that journalists have made similar arguments for decades.

Sky News associated editor Simon Bucks also rejects Davies’ thesis, which he says “would be shocking and depressing, if it was as widespread a problem as Nick Davies says”.

Bucks points out another change that hasn’t been much discussed in this debate: the way the web has allowed users to fact-check journalists’ work.

“If we get a fact wrong or miss out something important, it won’t take long before someone lets us know. Big mistakes generate an avalanche of comment.

Meanwhile, PR Stephen Waddington also finds no evidence here for cut and paste ‘churnalism’.

Waddington says his clients appear in national newspapers most days of the week: “In more than 75 per cent of instances it is because we’ve offered comment from clients in response to an off-diary news story. To suggest that PR agencies drive newsroom agendas is wrong.”

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