Thursday, 24 February 2011

So who came up with the word churnalism?

Most people associate the word 'churnalism' with Guardian journalist Nick Davies' book Flat Earth News, in which he highlighted the amount of press releases recycled in the media with little or no extra content added by journalists.

It has given birth to the new website I have mentioned here.

Tony Harcup (top), senior lecturer at the Department of Journalism Studies, University of Sheffield, reminds me that he wrote an article for Press Gazette in February 2008 about how the word churnalism pre-dated Flat Earth News.

Tony wrote: "I first came across the word churnalism several years ago after an NUJ meeting. Talk in the pub got round to bemoaning the fact that reporters were only rarely leaving newsrooms to check things out, due to staff cutbacks and a culture of 'presenteeism' – another good word for a bad trend.

"The union’s then northern organiser Miles Barter said he knew a journalist who had come up with a name for this process: churnalism. I called this chap, Waseem Zakir of BBC Scotland, and asked what he meant by it.

“ 'Ten or 15 years ago you would go out and find your own stories and it was proactive journalism,' he explained. 'It’s become reactive now. You get copy coming in on the wires and reporters churn it out, processing stuff and maybe adding the odd local quote. It’s affecting every newsroom in the country and reporters are becoming churnalists.'

"Too true. Apart from the simple pleasure of the rhyme, the word seemed to convey so much about what was wrong with so much journalism.

"I remember Googling it at the time and coming up with precisely no hits. Inspired by Waseem’s critique, a handful of us began using the term, but it sank largely without trace until Nick Davies started throwing it around recently."

1 comment:

Miles Barter said...

Waseem is our leader.