There’s a good article up on Boing Boing about how a lot of the news these days is partially or wholly created from little more than a press release. How true the press release actually is, however, is often times a secondary consideration if it’s a consideration at all.
There should be a book titled “How News Is Made,” a book that could be for journalism what “The Jungle” was to the meatpacking industry. My version would offer no conspiracy theory, but I’d point out the preponderance of sloppiness and lazy thinking coupled with a herd mentality, most especially in business journalism. I found a great example to illustrate what I’ve been thinking about, tipped off by an article written by Carl Bialik in the Wall Street Journal.
Back in my early 20’s I worked as a security guard at The Oakland Press, a local newspaper, and in the course of my rounds I got to see first hand how a moderately sized newspaper is produced and became pretty good friends with many of the reporters and editors. Even back then there was a certain amount of news-by-press-release taking place so this article doesn’t come as much of a surprise to me. It seems, though, that this practice has become more or less the norm for a good amount of the news stories that you read these days. At least for those news items that aren’t considered hard journalism. The drawback to this is that if you actually have an interest in one of these stories you often have to pay particular attention to the news over several days before the real story comes out. If you’re not already aware of this tendency then the article is probably going to be a bit of a surprise. Worth checking out.