Friday, 25 January 2013



One of the most disreputable features of mainstream media is how much of it seems to be churnalism.

From Wikipedia :-
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.

Churnalism has increased to the point that many stories found in the press are not original. The decline of original journalism has been associated with a corresponding rise in public relations.

I’m not saying any of this is unusual, remarkable or whatever, but if one stands back it can feel seriously depressing. The fourth estate has its good points in that a few scandals have been exposed, but even the scandals feel like dropped balls. Accidental leaks.

Sometimes we have to give ourselves a break to see these things in all their abject ghastliness. Go for a long walk or get away from the media for a few days – that kind of thing. Because it seems to me that most of the time we don’t actually have to be intelligent. Mainstream media can be full of PR rubbish because it doesn’t matter. We aren't bothered.

It’s one reason I’m so suspicious of IQ tests. If we were intelligent, surely we’d see more evidence of it? For example, the present mainstream media wouldn't be mainstream would it? 

Maybe what we do most of the time is imitate each other in very complex ways. Random advantages pop up, we seize them and the seizure is called progress or intelligence. So we can be intelligent when there is some advantage to be gained, but most of the time it isn’t necessary. If we don’t have to do intellectual work we don’t. 

Frustrating for those who enjoy the work, but not for those who don’t.


James Higham said...

Even in blogging this is a problem. I get roughly 35-40 articles a day come through to my email and from that, three of the six posts or so a day are made.

Most of those being sent are churnalism regurgitated, some are pure gold and that's why it has to be skim-read.

It's an absolute flood. Some of that even seeps into the blog and a couple of people have questioned "filler" posts. Even though there are no "filler" posts intended, the journalistic blight out there does seep through.

Anonymous said...

R4 is a treat on this one. Cue 'expert' droning on about some novelty and lo and behold they get in a plug for their new book. Then you hear some quite interesting piece and find it trawled everywhere - the book of the play of the film of the talk of the ..... Then you get the crackpot professor from an obscure overseas university expounding some unlikely theory - I reckon they run it up the flagpole here first in case too many folk laugh at home. Media - another word for incest.

All newspapers put PR puffs on the spike for a slow-news day. The PR game used to run on booze, canapes and fluttering eyelashes, now much harder and the bloggers and tweeters are in on the game. Believe nothing until it has been denied three times.

Consultancy, academe and the conference circuit has turned into corporate entertainment. You have to look pretty hard to find anything worthy of the word "information".

Demetrius said...

I have noted that a lot of science things in main media seem to be from Science Daily. And often not really understood if you then bother to go back to first source.

A K Haart said...

James - I scan stories, but as you say it's quite a job sorting through the junk.

Roger - I don't know how the Beeb gets away with all the plugs, but as you say, that's how things are.

Demetrius - I wonder if that's because all the copy and paste folk are fresh out of some dud university with a degree in media studies?