Study finds 55 percent of newspaper stories are placed

A study in Australia found that more than half of stories in mainstream newspapers were fed to them by PR entities: "Many journalists and editors were defensive ... Most refused to respond, others who initially granted an interview then asked for their comments to be withdrawn out of fear they'd be reprimanded, or worse, fired." [Crikey via The Awl]


  1. It’s surprising to think that 45% of the copy keeping the adverts apart is _bona fide_ journalism!

  2. There’s a difference between a corporation coming to you and telling you you’d better run their ad as a story, and a lazy editor looking to fill pages without producing new copy.

  3. Lobster has it correct. In the wake of the shifting informational media paradigm, newspaper journalism has become quite a rarity. Most papers have laid off quite a few of their reporters and the one I work at has cut the newsroom staff to the bone, even though we are gloriously bucking the trend due to our local market (the publisher is taking the opportunity to make his bottom line as thick as he can get it, the crook). The editors that have survived now have no choice but to fill the space with whatever they can get their hands on, and this constitutes mostly AP Wire releases and news releases from PR firms. The reporters who used to generate the news copy are now blogging while unemployed.

    1. I don’t want to sound anything here, I’m mostly unaware of the state of the press in the US, but this sounds a lot like Suzanne Church’s story from Cory’s Makers. Is this true (as in this is the future of journalism) or do you think it’s just a coincidence? Just looking for references here (french guy, our press is different, not better, but definitively blogging is not an option for out of work journalists, however they lost their job.)

  4. Um. Press releases are how most stories are found, yes. Why does this surprise anyone? Companies–or people– put out a press release when they think they’ve done something noteworthy, and newspapers publish it if they agree. How else would the newspapers find out about things that aren’t already public knowledge, ’cause nobody’s reported on them yet?

    Certainly interesting news stories do come from actual reporting, but most of the news out there is press releases. And it’s interesting news, too. Just paging down Boing Boing’s front page, I’d guess that there are a few stories that originated as press releases before they ended up here: the Teva flip flops with the lights, the NASA helicopter story, the space-law-at-a-university story, and oh look! there’s a submission directly from a guy who did some work on a video; that is effectively a press release.

    1. Agrees w. Anon @ 14:42

      Considering that, 55% caused by some kind of PR seems low. Mind you, I work for a media organisation ( that deals with this question by just republishing the press releases, and editorialising seperately.

  5. That probably says as much about the Australian media landscape as anything else. Australia’s media is quite homogenised and uncompetitive; a handful of proprietors have the mass media sewn up (there are two newspaper proprietors and about three commercial TV networks). The lack of competition has resulted in low standards of quality; for example, the Fairfax papers (The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald are the biggest ones) are generally regarded to be the “quality” papers, but compared to the British equivalents (such as The Guardian and The Independent), they come out poorly, heavy on the sex, sensationalism and celebrity gossip and light on content and analysis. Or compare The Australian (Murdoch’s “serious” paper in Australia) to its UK equivalent, The Times: The Australian is more nakedly biased. (Not surprisingly, the Australian press has been quiet about the government’s internet censorship plans recently, but I digress.) So it wouldn’t surprise me if the cosseted Australian press did cut costs by bulking their papers out with press releases to a greater extent than in more competitive markets.

    1. If 55% of stories are placed then 30% are pure trolling for page views. Frankly The Age is sometimes as bad as Channel 9. At least once a month we get “bike riders vs drivers” again to drive up page views.
      The saving grace is google news which filters out a lot of rubbish. Thanks Google!

  6. Oh, come on, guys — the Australians are slackers, if it’s only 40%. I took a PR course 40 years ago in which it was demonstrated to me rather clearly that 80% of the news in US major papers results from some sort of press release (including government PR). If you’re paying any attention at all, it’s easy enough to find the PR source in most stories. This includes BoingBoing and the pretty much everything on the Internet.

  7. As another Australian, I can confirm that everything acb said is spot on – especially as regards us having such consolidated ownership (the worst concentration in the Western world). I did work experience in a newspaper, and sure enough, “journalism” meant taking the tops and bottoms off press releases before printing them. I think 55%PR content is the kind of wimpy conservative understatement academics feel they have to make to be taken seriously, but at least the issue is getting some attention.

  8. Careful now! The BB title does not reflect the information presented in the story. In the study “55% of stories analysed were driven by some form of public relations”

    There is a big whopping difference.

  9. The entire promotion budget of the Krispy Kreme corporation seems to have been made of feeding stories about rushes and lines at new KK locations, and the Media fell into it like a cop on a coffee break.

  10. Does anyone have access to the actual methodology? Bugmenot doesn’t return anything worthwhile and I am not signing up for their site. As other commenters have pointed out, there’s a huge difference from copy & paste jobs from press releases and being ‘inspired’ by press releases. One is wholesale laziness and indicates a lack of actual quality product. The other is what I’d expect news organizations to do; along with critical analysis of those press releases.

  11. Let me see…you sit around waiting for someone to write to you? What happened to scouring the ground, and BEING THERE, getting there, having sources other than PR machines from whom: military, big business, big medical. You can’t make junk journalism into something by calling that mindless routine “methodology”.

  12. This article was almost certainly ultimately the result of a press release by the people who did the research.

    If you don’t put out press releases, you get no press. How’s that hard to get?

  13. How this all started was in the 1990s someone 1) realized most journalists and editors didn’t really know dick about any specific industry – especially in technical fields, 2) realized most journalists and editors were always on a deadline and squeezed for “quality time” to do journalism, and 3) our corporate need to get our product messages out into the market for _even just a to get a equitable fair shake_ was hampered by #1 and #2 quite badly.

    So the obvious solution was to 1) get your messages and talking points straight, 2) find some “wonderful stories”, real or hypothetical, about your product that aligned with the messages, and 3) write up these stories so that when a journalist or editor called asking for clarification on the market place, you’d just have it ready to do without delays. Did I mention they were often clueless even for trade magazines? So they, and we’d send them the story all wrapped up in a neat bow.

    Naturally it wasn’t ever intended to be nefarious – I know we talked about that and concluded “most journalists and editors” wouldn’t be stupid enough just to take our articles in toto and publish them – they’ll get something similar from our competitors and just cut-and-paste a few key paragraphs and write up the rest. They are honest, objective people and that’s how honest, objective people do things.

    Or not. We clearly underestimated their laziness or staff sizes because we’d started to see our stuff published verbatim more often than not. Well, the boss liked it – it was “on-mission” 100% and that gave job security. And of course, if they really are that dumb and corrupt, what else could we do – we were already doing their job for them (apparently) and helping our own mission – what can you do beyond that?

    BTW this was a Fortune 20 company.

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