A Writer’s Best Friend?

Google’s recent announcement that it is cracking down on “content farming” was bad news for media outlets producing low-quality regurgitated or repackaged stories.

Further scrutiny now comes in the form of, a website that asks users to paste press releases into a search engine, which then compares the text with as many as three million news stories and determines how much of their text has been lifted directly from the release.

In this Guardian article, Martin Moore of  the Media Standards Trust, the U.K. organization that created the site, explains their motives.  “People don’t realise how much churn they’re being fed every day,” he said. “Hopefully this will be an eye-opener.”

The site searches through stories by U.K. news outlets and has shown that — to varying degrees — all of the major organizations, including the Guardian itself and the highly respected BBC,  repeat portions of news releases verbatim in their reporting.

How would Canada’s news outlets fare? As of yet there is no, but it seems safe to assume, with journalists here being under similar time and resource pressures, the results would be consistent.

However, another way to look at, rather than pointing an accusatory finger at lazy journalism, is that it also shows which organizations are publishing original, quality reporting. In making each organization’s “churn rate” public, such sites can drive home the importance of giving writers the time and resources to do their jobs and produce balanced and compelling work.

Posted on February 28, 2011 at 12:49 pm by editor · · Tagged with: ,

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