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.