Guardian and Independent getting their money’s worth

Although other blogs have used it, today is the first time AM has tried out the Churnalism website to analyse how much of a press release has been lifted and regurgitated as a news story by journalists churnalists in the media.

Our test concerns a story suggesting plantlife and animals were being forced towards the Earth’s poles by global warming.  The research cited was conducted by the University of York and reported in the journal Science. As the research was performed by the University, AM looked for the press release issued by York on the subject, then used the Churnalism website to carry out the comparison with newspapers that reported the story.

The findings below are unsurprising, as the usual suspects from the Guardian and Independent unquestioningly cut and paste up to 43% of the press release into their write up. The top three offenders are shown below:

Coming out of the analysis rather well this time was Little Lou of the Barclay Brother Beano, who only pasted 33% of the press release into her ‘story’.   As for the others, the editors of those rags could be excused for replacing their incredibly expensive hacks with trained chimps for all the value they are adding.  The chimps would be cheaper and most likely more open minded with it.

As for the main crux of the story, a careful read of the York press release shows us this story sits on shakier foundations than a Japanse skyscraper.  The key word is emphasised in the paragraph below:

Analysing data for over 2000 responses by animal and plant species, the research team estimated that, on average, species have moved to higher elevations at 12.2 metres per decade and, more dramatically, to higher latitudes at 17.6 kilometres per decade.

Nothing like a good bit of hype to get some attention and some more research grant money, is there?

Update: As for the scientific merits or otherwise of the University of York research, Donna Laframboise offers some essential and not too flattering background about the project leader of the team Chris Thomas – which naturally none of the media outlets share with their readers and viewers.

But then, their story would have less impact if they pointed out Thomas’ last effort to push a similar claim was comprehensively torn apart and debunked by peer review scientists.  Far better to keep the readers and viewers in ignorance in case they decide the story is just more ludicrous hype.  This again demonstrates how ill served we are by our biased and agenda driven media.

7 Responses to “Guardian and Independent getting their money’s worth”


  1. 1 woodsy42 21/08/2011 at 10:15 pm

    Good grief, in six months time the cat will have moved from the lawn to the top of the molehill. Scary stuff.

  2. 2 Polar Bear with a Suitcase. 21/08/2011 at 10:20 pm

    http://www.quadrant.org.au/blogs/doomed-planet/2009/07/resisting-climate-hysteria

    As distinguished and eminent Climate Scientist , Professor Richard Lindzen points out in one of his articles :

    “We have had ice ages and warmer periods when alligators were found in Spitzbergen.”

    I wonder how the geniuses at York University will account for the fact that in Spitsbergen, Norway where Polar Bears can be found, there have been discoveries of alligator fossils, bearing in mind that alligators are usually found in far warmer climates.

  3. 3 Grumpy Old Man 21/08/2011 at 10:23 pm

    Errr….. AM. Japanese skyscrapers foundations are in fact incredibly well constructed to cope with all but the most cataclysmic earthquakes, unlike the quoted story, which falls apart as the ice-cream van of cursory inspection set off it’s chimes just outside the door. That’s why very few japanese skyscrapers fall down in an earthquake. A better simile would be,”not like a Japenese skyscraper in an earthquake at all, really”.

  4. 4 Autonomous Mind 21/08/2011 at 10:46 pm

    Errr…. GOM, the buildings stay standing but the foundations are on shaky ground.

  5. 5 Martin Brumby 22/08/2011 at 7:44 am

    With the aid of the Churnalism site, you have carried out a more thorough and credible investigation than these Greenie whackos from the University of York could manage.

    And my guess is that it cost the taxpayers far less!

    Congratulations!

  6. 6 Spencer 22/08/2011 at 4:48 pm

    Go to google and type ‘Russians Plan’ and you will see the first suggestion is russians plant flag arctic seabed. Choose that suggestion and you will see 155,000 news articles.

    The New York Times, BBC, Guardian etc. all went with the story which was not actually true as we later discovered. The story was an attempt to increase the volatility in the petroleum markets and obviously originated from a speculator or a petrol producing country (like maybe Russia?)

    These articles are ‘partly’ cut and past jobs and say pretty much the same thing, however if you read the html meta tags you can see that each article is carefully crafted to be a little different. like so:

    Russia plants flag on Arctic seabed
    Russia plants flag on Arctic floor
    Russia plants flag under North Pole
    Planted the country’s flag on the seabed
    Plant its national flag

    Two deep-diving Russian mini-submarines
    Two mini-subs
    Two mini-submarines
    Two Russian submarines

    The Churnalism tool does not recognize anything untoward with “russians plant flag on arctic seabed”, but when you type the phrase “Two deep-diving Russian mini-submarines” (with quotes) into google, the result is 1300 identical cut and past articles.

  7. 7 ke25324 23/08/2011 at 5:00 pm

    Thanks for the link to the press release for this study. When I read “meta-analysis” that was all I needed to know. From this I “estimate” the study is 99% junk. I’m sure it would be entertaining to read it but I gave up on Science a long time ago and think $15 for a single article copy is more than a little silly (unless you’re trying to get people to subscribe).


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