The following is an excerpt from Ayn Rand’s novel, Atlas Shrugged, that offers a wonderfully clinical description of the nature of media journalists.
“The reporters who came to the press conference in the office of the John Galt Line were young men who had been trained to think that their job consisted of concealing from the world the nature of events. It was their daily duty to serve as audience for some public figure who made utterances about the public good, in phrases carefully chosen to convey no meaning. It was their daily job to sling words together in any combination they pleased, so long as the words did not fall into a sequence saying something specific.”
Try it yourself. Have a quick read through the websites of the major news corporations and see how many articles relating to government you can find that actually say something specific, and aren’t just regurgitated rhetoric. Find any? I thought not.
There’s no signs of this situation improving either, if anything it seems to be getting worse. According to research conducted by the Cardiff University, 54% of news articles have some form of PR in them. This recent phenomena has been dubbed ‘churnalism’ and this is the term now commonly used to describe news articles that are published as journalism, but are essentially press releases with little added.
Nick Davies, writer of Flat Earth News, a book on the ‘…truth about news media’, wrote ‘churnalism’ is produced by:
“Journalists who are no longer gathering news but are reduced instead to passive processors of whatever material comes their way, churning out stories, whether real event or PR artifice, important or trivial, true or false.”
Websites like churnalism.com are trying to make the argument that: even though some press releases are in the public interest, the source of the release should still be made apparent so it’s not disguised as actual journalism, in the true sense of the word. If such movements gather enough public support then perhaps purveyors of ‘news’ will start to change their ways, but then again perhaps not.
Regardless of whether the quality of journalism improves or not, the moral of the story is (and always will be): don’t read ‘the news’. Or at least be mindful of what you’re wading into when you do.