Churnalism: fine example from Archant Suffolk


Churnalism: symbolised at Media Standards Trust

Churnalism is the habit of some media of using press releases without much added. There is a fine example of it from the Archant Suffolk newspapers and websites today.


The chairman of the new Industrial and Provident Society set up by the county council to run its libraries resigned yesterday and was replaced by the choice of the IPS board.


Eventually the board will be chosen by community groups involved in the running of local libraries but initially the board members are appointed by the council. So the decision of the board to replace the council appointed chairman is significant.


The county council put out a press release, presumably on behalf of the IPS although this was not stated. This is understandable as the IPS does not yet have the means to distribute its own releases.


The Archant Suffolk story (the two dailies, the Ipswich Star and the East Anglian Daily Times and several weeklies have a joint reporting staff) was simply a rewrite of the press release. Nothing added. Churnalism.


The Wordblog Suffolk story is here.


The Media Standards Trust, an independent charity aiming to foster high standards in news media, exposes the prevalence of churnalism, with a churn engine which helps readers identify recycled press releases in national newspapers.


Of course, press releases have a part to play in journalism. Sometimes it is right to use simple, uncontroversial, informative releases without additional material.


But the change of leadership at the libraries IPS is a topic where newspapers need to help readers understand what it is all about.

  • PiscatorRedux

    “…..where newspapers need to help readers understand what it is all about”.

    I’m afraid that you are very optimistic if you expect that from Archant. They are generally very poor journalists, being sloppy, inaccurate, unperceptive and seemingly out of touch with current events in the County. I do not think they have any analytical or forensic abilities to enable them to understand and get to the heart of any topic or issue; let alone present it in an unbiased and meaningful way to readers.

    It doesn’t help them to develop an original opinion of any sort, when Archant newspapers, certainly those in Norfolk and Suffolk, appear to function as the voice and house publications of the Tory Party in those counties. “Churnalising” politicised County Council press releases is but one manifestation of Archant’s true mission.

    • andrewga

      While not disagreeing with much of what you say, some Tories have taken to calling the Ipswich Star, the Morning Star. For journalists being accused of being biased by both sides is taken as a sign that you are getting the balance about right.

      • PiscatorRedux

        If I have misjudged the calibre of reporting by the Morning Star, then I stand corrected.

        In Suffolk, we live in a curious blue-coloured hinterland. Tory politicians at all levels view the electorate as a sullen, ungrateful lurking mass of potentially rebellious peasantry, who require frequent application of the whip to be kept in order.

        When dissent threatens, Tory men harrumph and bluster. The females do likewise, and also play the “nasty horrid people upset me and made me unhappy” card.

        Thus, a polite and normal individual may stand up at one of the frequent sham “consultation” meetings and ask an inconvenient question; and be instantly branded a troublemaker. The docile audience, whose demure behaviour makes a congregation at Evensong look like a noisy and irreverent gathering, cough and shift in their seats; whereupon they are described as “a howling mob” in the newspapers.

        In such an atmosphere of paranoia and hyperbole, assisted in large part by the biased reporting of complaisant Archant media, it is not surprising that Tories see the Comintern hard at work in the county. We really do need a robust and honest Press now, more than ever.

        • andrewga

          I agree completely that we need a robust and honest press now, more than ever.

          A couple of days ago I heard the leader of Birmingham City Council on the radio saying one of their problems was they did not have the local media they used to have. This is an issue all over the county and overseas.

          How to finance better local media and ensure competition is the real problem. We are still looking for ways to make online local media sites pay.

  • guest

    You make it sound like an unusual practice. In my experience whenever I have researched an item in detail the press releases are always quoted word for word in every media. I always thought of it as lazy journalism.

  • rosehillreaders

    We realise we are very late contributing to this discussion, but desperation with the local press situation prompts us to use any outlet. It is now pretty clear that one of the first actions of the current Chief Executive of SCC was to kill the storm of adverse press coverage of the county council and its dubious figureheads in the EADT and the Star throughout 2011 and early 2012. A deal was obviously done with the incoming Chief Exec’s mates at Archant Media, so they get fed all the press releases first in return for reprinting them with a ‘happy pic’ of grinning people outside a library, care home etc. You only have to look at the ‘before’ and the ‘after’ to notice the astonishing change: Paul Geater and his colleagues have been muzzled since May 2011. We have an election of all County Councillors next year; is this any way to encourage democratic debate? The New Strategic Direction is going faster than ever post-Hill and post-Pembroke, but the local press monopoly is mute. Thank goodness for blogs such as this one for providing at least some outlet for open discussion and opposition to the drastic cuts being driven through by the overwhelming SCC Tory majority. No wonder we, the people of Suffolk, are accused of cynicism and negativity by our elected politicians.

    Incidentally, the libraries may have been kept open, but look behind the headline and find that the whole network has been hollowed out with massive cuts to the support services upon which the frontline staff (apparently ‘protected’ by the councillors) depend to provide a decent service. Most of that ‘back office’ work is either not being done or has been exported to the branches and their over-stressed staff. Many people report sudden closures of branches ‘due to staff sickness’ (unthinkable a couple of years ago), much longer waits for reservations (if they get them at all), real problems with the new computer system and very little response to stock suggestions due to the almost total absence of professional staff and heavy cuts in the stock budget.
    -Rosehill Readers

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