Archive for the ‘launch’ tag

Ladies and gentleman, please start your churn engines

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This post was first published on on Wednesday 23rd February

Today we (the Media Standards Trust) are launching, a free independent website that allows people to compare press releases with published news articles – to help identify ‘churnalism’.

It’s an idea we’ve been talking about for a good few years, but only finally got around to rolling our sleeves up last year. Ever since Nick Davies published Flat Earth News – detailing the vast quantities of press releases that make it into mainstream media – we’ve been wondering how to help distinguish churnalism from journalism.

Last spring we bit the bullet and asked Donovan Hide – a Liverpool based techno guru – to help us work out how to create it, building on the foundations of (which we also run). We’ve had to finance it from core funding (which we get from charitable foundations) since it’s pretty tricky to convince people to support this without seeing how it works. But now it’s up and running people will – we hope – see how useful it is and flock to our aid ;-)

How does work out if articles are churn?

When you paste a press release into and hit ‘compare’ the churn engine compares it with over three million articles published in the national press in the last three years (refreshed every hour or so).

The engine looks for 15-character strings in the press release that are exactly the same as 15-character strings in articles. When it finds the same string the engine looks for more identical strings in the same article. If more than 20% of the article and the press release overlap, the engine suggests it may be churn.

This makes the process sound quite simple. It’s not. For those who would like a much more sophisticated explanation of how it works, we’ll be publishing a post by Donovan Hide tomorrow.

Finding press releases

Finding press releases to compare with news articles is not as easy as it sounds. Though there are some press release aggregators that publish lots of releases on the web (like PR Newswire), this only covers a small percentage of the total number sent out. Many press releases are only published on the website of the organisation they are sent from. Many more are not published on the web at all but emailed directly to specific journalists.

This is why we’ve taken a mixed approach – part automated collection, part crowd sourcing. For the automated part, we scrape press releases from a bunch of organisations that send out lots – the government, big retailers like Tesco and M&S, and some police forces. We compare these automatically with all the articles published on national newspaper websites, and on the BBC and Sky.

For the crowdsourcing part, we allow people to paste in press releases and compare them. If they look like churn then you can save the press release (with the web link if it has one) so you can share it (e.g. via Facebook and Twitter) and so that other people can see it when they come to the site.

We’ll also be tweeting good churn from @churnalert, and building up a bank of good examples.


We have (quite a big) wishlist of other stuff we’d like to do with but don’t yet have the time or the money:

  • More press releases collected automatically We’ll be scraping more press releases from the web as we find them. If you know of any good places to find them please let us know
  • More news articles to compare With more resources we’d be able to provide comparisons of the local press as well as the national, by extending the reach of Then we could cover specialist and trade press. Then international…. (OK, we’ll need to draw the line somewhere)
  • Exposing probable churn by cross correlating news articles If we cross correlated news articles using the same methodology we would identify clusters of articles that overlap with one another. This could indicate that these articles may be based on press release. We could then appeal for help to find the release
  • Linking with Now is up and running we can work out how best to link it to We could, for example, indicate when a journalist’s article looks like it might be churn, and link directly from the article on to the press release on which it might be based
  • The Daily Churn Once there are enough people using churnalism, and exposing good churn reasonably quickly, then we’ll be able publish a ‘Daily Churn’, highlighting newspapers and articles that day that appear to be churn.

Tell us what you’d add to this wishlist by emailing

Written by Martin Moore

February 23rd, 2011 at 6:44 pm

New New Journalisted now live

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Hooray! We’ve just launched a *new, improved, fresh faced Journalisted (*. Apart from looking cleaner and more well scrubbed, we’ve added a bunch of stuff to the new site to make it – we hope – that much more useful:

- *Compare journalists who write similar articles*. Our clever semantic search tool compares the articles of all national news journalists and identifies journalists who write stories about similar subjects. Andrew Grice (The Independent), Andrew Sparrow (The Guardian), and Andrew Porter (The Daily Telegraph) – for example – as well as sharing the same first name, also all write about Westminster politics. Richard Littlejohn, Peter McKay, Peter Oborne, Macer Hall and others all tend to write trenchant pieces on the government and Gordon Brown. Charlie Brooker, who writes a TV and a feature column, pens pieces similar to Anna Pickard and Sam Wollaston (the TV ones) but also Paul Carr and Hugo Rifkind (the technology and features types stuff). It gets even more fun if you do one degree of separation but that’s for those with far too much time on their hands

- *Read similar articles by other journalists*. Click on an article and you can not only see people who are blogging about it or commenting on it, but read similar articles by other journalists. This is meant to help in three ways: (1) You can compare facts – e.g. on swine flu cases, on political revelations, crime etc (2) You can compare opinions – about books, people or politics, (3) You can see who is churning out press releases (because their articles will bear a remarkable similarity to wire copy in other papers)

- *Link to more biographical info*. We’ve made it alot easier for journalists – and the public – to send us more links to Wikipedia pages, Facebook profiles, Twitter accounts, you name it. And we’re going to encourage people to send links to prizes won, books written etc.

- *Articles from other publications*. The old site only covered the national press and the BBC. Though we don’t automatically add any additional articles on the new site journalists can now send us articles published in other publications – to better represent their output

There’s some more new stuff – and alot more in the pipeline – but I’ll let you find that for yourself.

If you’ve got any thoughts on how we can make the site better – or if you find any glitches we haven’t spotted – please let me know (by commenting here or emailing me at martin DOT moore AT mediastandardstrust DOT org).

Written by Martin Moore

June 12th, 2009 at 3:09 pm

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New Media Standards Trust website – tell us what you think

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For instant judgement stand up comedy is probably your best bet. Get up on stage, make a joke or tell a story, and you’ll find out pretty quickly if the audience finds you funny or not.

Theatre’s probably next best for audience reaction, though the response is almost certainly a little more muted than for live comedy.

Launching a website, on the other hand, is pretty far down the list. You design it, build it, and then release it to the world with a… click. No applause, no laughter, just the hum of a few servers somewhere.

Still, it’s better than telly. At least you can see who’s taking a look, where they’re coming from, what they’re looking at, and how long they’re staying. And, if you’re lucky, maybe they’ll leave a comment – a quick word of encouragement, a constructive criticism, a long list of links that aren’t working.

So here’s a request. Whether you want to give us chapter and verse on what you think, or you just want to have a quick snoop about, come and have a look at the new Media Standards Trust website which has launched at

You’re welcome to leave comments on this blog, or directly on the site (I’ll pick them up either way).

Written by Martin Moore

January 21st, 2008 at 2:58 pm

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Launching the Orwell Prize 2008

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Heading off shortly to help launch the Orwell Prize 2008.

As of this evening the Media Standards Trust is partnering with the Orwell Trust and Political Quarterly to run the Orwell Prize for political writing and journalism.
It’s an honour to be associated both with such a prestigious prize and, via the prize, to the memory of Orwell himself. We’ve been beavering away getting a website ready (it hasn’t had one to date) at, which will go live at 7pm tonight.
To mark the opening of this year’s prize we’ve also helped organise a panel debate on ‘Orwell, ID Cards, the Citizen and the State’ – with David Goodhart (editor, Prospect), Jenni Russell (Guardian), Heather Brooke (author, ‘Right to Know’) and Nick Cohen (Observer), chaired by Jean Seaton (University of Westminster).
What would Orwell have made of ID cards? Are his warnings about Big Brother still relevant in our contemporary information society? What would a modern day George Orwell write about?
The event is at the Frontline Club from 7-9pm. If you’d like to come along you’re welcome to email me at

Written by Martin Moore

November 30th, 2007 at 2:33 pm

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