Churnalism, undersight

Also known as “nontent”: largely unedited chunks of press release copypasta’d into supposedly legitimate British journalism venues. This clever project can help you spot it in the wild. It’s depressingly common, especially in those organs which I increasingly find myself bracketing in a category labelled “the usual suspects”…

I like projects like this, because they let us watch the watchmen (and the watchmen who are supposed to be watching the watchmen). For the last few months I’ve been kicking around a concept called “undersight” for exactly this sort of citizen sousveillance phenomenon, and thinking it a pretty smart coining… until a swift Google revealed that someone at H+ Magazine beat me to it back in 2009, and that was probably where I first picked the term up before burying it in my subconscious. Ah, well. Still a useful term, though, and one I’ll be keeping.

3 thoughts on “Churnalism, undersight”

  1. I’ve seen this so often in my own little corner of the world. (And wondered if I should have gotten paid twice for drafting a given press release.)

  2. There’s a section of James Harkin’s new book Niche (yes, I do work for his UK publisher, but I would have wanted to read it anyway) that talks about the decline in the global newspaper industry driving out skilled journalism in favour of sensationalism, which in turn lead to a greater reliance on copy&paste press releases, which only hastened the decline (vicious circle style). The wider point (and that of the book in general) being that specialist publications such as The Economist have apparently doubled their subscriber base in the past few years while the big, general-interest beasts have floundered and failed.

    Bit of a lesson there for the wider publishing industry, eh? If only there was a chance of it waking up in time to smell the death spiral…

  3. A decade ago I was working at a PR firm, sending out press releases. Part of my job was to skim all the local papers, looking for our releases. When they were printed, they were never edited at all. I suspect no one even looked a them.

    That was the end of my newspaper reading days.

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