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Friday, March 14, 2008


Wish I could take credit for this delightful word ... but it is derived from:

Where once journalists were active gatherers of news, now they have generally become mere passive processors of unchecked, second-hand material, much of it contrived by PR to serve some political or commercial interest. Not journalists, but churnalists. An industry whose primary task is to filter out falsehood has become so vulnerable to manipulation that it is now involved in the mass production of falsehood, distortion and propaganda. - Nick Davies

Journalist of the Year, Reporter of the Year, Feature Writer of the Year, the first winner of the Gellhorn Award for Investigative Reporting - it seems apt for Nick to now turn his gaze upon investigating his own field.

Says Nick: "There never was a time when news media were perfect. Journalists have always worked with too little time and too little certainty; with interference from owners and governments; with laws that intimidate and inhibit the search for truth. But the evidence I found in researching my new book, Flat Earth News, suggests our tendency to recycle ignorance is far worse than it was."

Having very recently discovered his writings - his oblique style, for want of a better description, fascinates me - I am looking excitedly forward to reading his latest book, Flat Earth News: An Award-winning Reporter Exposes Falsehood, Distortion and Propaganda in the Global Media, now available locally.

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Blogger Sidhusaaheb said...

I am reminded of what has happened to one of my favourite magazines, India Today, since it became a weekly (It was a fortnightly earlier). The standards have gone down considerably since then.

15 March, 2008 02:25

Blogger Vic said...

I first came across the expression in an article by friend Ajith Pillai, last seen with Outlook, but at the time working with Vinod Mehta's newspaper (which shut down very quickly, as the owner apparently could not stand the political pressures that the media faces - as you can tell, I have forgotten the name of the paper).

Shortly after his article, Indian Express did a ratings story, revealing that news reporters on the financial 'beat' in Mumbai 'earned' substantial amounts more than their compadres in say, crime, because the investment banks and other promoters of public issues (which were practically every week at the time, early '90s, maybe about 1992). In fact, the habit of slipping reporters a small gift in appreciation of their showing up at a press conference had become a straightforward envelope stuffed with cash. The more prominent reporters had the cash delivered home, so that they could walk out of the conference room whilst ignoring the 'tip'.

I have no idea, but it might be interesting to know, whether Mr Davies used this term even earlier, or in fact whether anyone else did.

A quick look at the Net does not satisfy my curiosity, except to note that modern churnalists are accused of snatching stuff from Wikipedia, and in turn (wow! what a surprise!) Wikipedia has no entry for the term.

17 March, 2008 13:44


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