Journalist responds to churnalism story

byDana Liebelson
Mar 24, 2011 in Digital Journalism

Nicole Martinelli contributed reporting to this article.

IJNet contacted a reporter from The Guardian about a story of hers that appeared on a website about cut-and-paste journalism called churnalism.com.

Julia Kollewe of The Guardian recently had an article posted on the transparency site as an example of “churnalism,” a term for news articles reworked from press releases.

IJNet also contacted journalists and editors at the BBC, The Scotsman and The Independent, but received no replies. The articles from those organizations had much higher percentages of cut-and-paste content than Kollewe's, some of them up to 93 percent.

Kollewe's article, on supermarket chain Waitrose, had 1,479 characters overlapping with the press release and churnalism gave it two “recycled” symbols out of a possible three.

The circumstances under which she says it was written will sound familiar to many staff reporters.

“It was a company announcement, it was new and unexpected so we wrote a straight news story like everyone else,” Kollewe told IJNet via email. “Also bear in mind that it was a Sunday for Monday story so there were fewer opportunities for original reporting. There was one reporter (me) who wrote everything that day. You can rest assured that not all stories are like that.”

Kollewe regularly writes about property and insurance for both The Guardian and The Observer and previously worked at The Independent and Bloomberg News.

She also sent IJNet her latest investigative story about Waitrose, which she noted, features “zero percent press release content.”

Martin Moore, one of the developers of churnalism.com, agreed that it is acceptable for journalists to work from press releases.

“When press releases are newsworthy, you expect them to be used. And certain aspects, such as quotes, should absolutely be copy and pasted. But the ultimate goal is to support original journalism," Moore said.

IJNet editor Nicole Martinelli contributed reporting.