Saturday, April 16, 2011

Ammo: Climate Change Churnalism

*for an explanation of 'Ammo' see here.

Anyone who follows Watts Up With That, or similar climate sceptic blogs will have seen this recent - and absolutely barking mad - story 'Fish carried up a mountain on backs of llamas to escape global warming'.

As you'd expect, the story is torn to shreds both in the comments on the original story at the Telegraph and at WUWT. Aside from the fact that this cubed idiocy is even tolerated is the fact that it has been reported uncritically by our ever useless media. Just how uncritical is the reporting though? Now we have a superb tool to discover the answer to this question: This story was an ideal test case.

The premise behind the site is that the majority of content we receive from the media is simply recycled propaganda - a.k.a. 'press releases' - from institutions, organisations and individuals to whom the media are happy to give an uncritical free ride. The site has access to the 'journalisted' database. What the site creators ask users to do is to find press releases and paste the content in, which it then compares with its archive of news articles and provides links to any articles that appear to have been cut and pasted, along with a percentage of content so copied.

Finding the press release is usually fairly straightforward - just look for the organisation or body they are referencing and look for press releases on their site. In the case of the llama-fish article, I soon found the Environment Agency press release here. Copying and pasting this content into, here are the results (click on the image to see a full size version):

As you can see - the press release has been cut and pasted for the majority of content in three of our largest media organisations. The publicly funded BBC has 75% of its content cut and pasted. Great value for license fee money, eh?

The churnalism database now has a permanent record of this here.

Now a number of people have started adding content to the database, the site is now able to offer some interesting categorical breakdowns here.

The more people who make use of this facility, the more useful it will be. In addition it offers API functionality for programmers, opening interesting possibilities for automating the checking of proliferation of bullshit from certain sources (Number 10 I'm looking at you). It also opens up fascinating avenues for genuine comparative research - for example, how much and how often the BBC uncritically cuts and pastes content from certain sources relative to others.

It also hands those of us in the libertarian leaning or climate sceptic communities an immensely powerful weapon - especially if we all make regular use of it and highlight the media's pathetically compliant churnalism. But we need to use it and promote it! Please do share this around and make use of the facility for your own blogs. Rest assured there will be plenty more 'churnalism' stories coming up here thanks to the research facility now offers.

This could be a game changer.

Use it!

Fight the endarkenment.


Max Farquar said...

That's an excellent site you've found there, Kata. Thanks for all the info.

I'll be adding that to my bookmarks and will also do a post on it too ... to help spread the word ;-)

SadButMadLad said...

Add to the cost to the BBC license fee the item within the One Show which featured the presenter helping take the fish up the mountain.

Only a few hour left to watch but available here -

microdave said...

"The site has access to the 'journalisted' database."

Yes, but for how long, I wonder? If this gets lots of publicity someone is going to make a phone call....

Good find, though.