Not so long ago, wire copy was the bedrock of many a publication but papers never openly revealed their dependency on agency material. The intro was tweaked, the copy jigged and the reporter’s byline put at the top.
The web exposed the lie when people were easily able to read multiple but strikingly similar versions of a story across a range of titles.
By dropping a press release into a text box on the churnalism.com site it’s possible to run a comparison with articles appearing in the UK media.
A fake chastity garter story by Chris Atkins found its way into the Mail Online’s science and tech section as a potential Valentine’s Day gift.
Churn stats show 40% of the Mail piece had common content with the fake story: – For the Footballer with a suspicious mind…the garter that texts if his WAG is unfaithful The churn engine even highlights the text that is common to both, ie has been ‘lifted’.
The Mail has pulled the story but offers no explanation or admission to its readers.
It’s easy to scoff, but the Beeb doesn’t come out of it unscathed, with 5Live giving airtime to a spoof story about Downing Street’s new cat.
The back-story about the technology that underpins the results is interesting in itself and has been written up here by Donovan Hide.
- Churnalism or news? How PRs have taken over the media (guardian.co.uk)