A new book claims that national newspapers mainly recycle newswire copy and PR puff for their home news sections.
Describing this trend as “churnalism”, the book’s author says research shows that around 80 per cent of news stories in the quality UK national newspapers is not original copy generated by in-house journalists.
Nick Davies, a journalist with The Guardian, points the finger at “the corporations and the accountants who have taken us over have stripped out our staffing, increased our output and ended up chaining us to our desks”. He claims fewer national journalists are now producing three times as many pages as they did 20 years ago.
The research, carried out by the journalism department at Cardiff University, suggests that PR or newswire copy makes up the bulk of national coverage in The Times (69 per cent); The Daily Telegraph (68 per cent); Daily Mail (66 per cent); The Independent (65 per cent); and The Guardian (52 per cent).
It also criticises the broadcast media for following this trend to “pre-packaged news”.
Head of the journalism school, Professor Justin Lewis, adds: “The everyday practices of news judgement, fact checking, balance, criticising and interrogating sources that are, in theory, central to the routine day to day journalism practice have been eroded.”
The claims will have a familiar ring to anyone working in the media, whether they are prepared to admit it or not. It is not just the national media that is following this churnalism trend, regional media is also struggling with demand to produce more stories with less resources.
The timing of the research release is also interesting, given Alastair Campbell’s criticism of the falling standards in the media earlier this week.
Is this a start of a concerted effort to improve standards, restore trust and confidence and prepare journalism for the 21st Century?
Only if those in the industry start to acknowledge not just the scale of the problem, but that there is actually an issue that needs tackling.