Mail Online under fire from new Churnalism website

A new website launched today seeks to name and shame journalists and publications caught recycling press releases.

Churnalism.com has been launched by the Media Standards trust and takes up the baton from Guardian journalist Nick Davies – who popularised the term Churnalism, for journalism which is little more than re-writing press releases, in his 2008 book Flat Earth News.

The site invites people to paste press releases into it, Churnalism.com then compares the press release with news stories published online to reveal how much is apparently cut and pasted by the journalist.

Examples this morning include a press release from Asda stating that families are now £8 a week better off than a year ago, which was apparently 89 per cent cut and pasted into a story appearing on Mail Online.

A press release from One Poll stating that it takes the average woman a year and a half to ‘feel like a woman again after childbirth’was apparently 97 per cent cut and pasted into a Mail Online story.

Media Standards Trust Director Martin Moore said: ‘News organisations can now be much more transparent about the sources of their articles, but most of them still aren’t. Hiding the connection between PR and news is not in the interests of the public. Hopefully churnalism.com will nudge them to be more open about their use of PR material.

‘Even with press releases that are clearly in the public interest – medical breakthroughs, government announcements, school closures, and perhaps even this website launch – it is still better that articles are transparent about their sources.

‘Maybe churnalism.com will also encourage more original journalism. Exposing unoriginal churn may help slow the steep decline in the amount of original reporting that we’ve seen in the last few years.”

(Note: This story was based on a press release from the Media Standards Trust)

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