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Did That Reporter Just Lift Copy from a Press Release? Churnalism Website Helps You Find Out

Every day thousands of press releases and pitches are sent out across the globe by PR professionals to journalists, all in the hope that the journalists “pick up” the information and use it in a story. Of course, this being PRNewser, one may wonder why we’re even briefly outlining this standard PR practice.

Here’s why: a new website, “Churnalism,” seeks to expose when news outlets lift copy straight from press releases into their stories. Created by the Media Standards Trust, Churnalism will scan content from the UK national press, the BBC and Sky News online. It’s an interesting service and one can but help wonder if it will be rolled out more widely.

Of course, it’s not that hard to spot press releases being picked up by various news outlets, every hour of every day. As Columbia Journalism Review notes, this doesn’t mean a reporter isn’t doing their job:

There are plenty of press releases that are in the public interest. It would be odd if news outlets did not publish news about medical breakthroughs, about major government announcements, about exciting new consumer products.

Indeed, in the super-fast-paced news cycles of the online reporting world, many news outlets simply post entire press releases as an addendum to their story, or outlets will post the basic nuggets of information from the release first to get the news indexed in search, and then circle back for more context and analysis.

Back to Churnalism — those involved with UK media outreach may want to check out the site’s leader board of the top press releases over the last three months. On the top of the list right now: stories about how Bahrain will not host the first F1 Grand Prix of 2011 due to unrest in the country.

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