Pretend News

The slim line between the adverts you see in the newspaper and the ‘news’ that is printed next to them has virtually disappeared thanks to the increased demand being placed on fewer journalists to keep the newspaper full. Churnalism is now standard practice for the majority of newspaper content, and the majority of the ‘stories’ to be regurgitated are created by marketing executives looking for free advertising for their clients.

Take this news story for example: ‘Six out of 10 couples “unhappy in their relationship”‘, ‘written’ by the Daily Mail Reporter – which basically means it is a cut-and-paste job. The ‘story’ tries to pretend that this is news, that this figure is the result of important research – important phrases are used to imply that this was a study conducted by professionals: ‘say researchers’, ‘a study of 3,000 couples’but this quickly begins to fall apart with giveaway phrases: ‘more than half of those polled said…’.

You then get to know the company behind the poll and all is revealed:

‘The sad fact of the matter is that when people first start dating, they go to great lengths to appeal to each other by being sexy, romantic and giving,’ said David Brown of website UKDating.com.

Once the advert has been revealed the ‘story’ can then openly reveal that it was a survey (the word is used twice, but only towards the end of the article) and can drop the pretence that this was ‘research’ or a ‘study’. It is amusing how easy it is to get a free plug for your business just by conducting a survey on your website. It is slightly more concerning how news organisations try to legitimise these surveys by claiming that they are ‘studies’ or serious bits of ‘research’. By the end of the article the reader knows that this is a cheap plug for a dating website, but nonetheless the newspaper feels obliged to at least pretend – at the start of the piece – that this was actual news.

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