The phenomenon of "churnalism" and why we can expect more anti-chaser articles

Dan Robinson

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Jan 14, 2011
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The phenomenon of "churnalism" is a well-known practice in the media, all the way from tabloid-level independent web sites up to the mainstream networks and major newspapers. Essentially, churnalism is the practice of using old stories in the creation of new ones, with little to no updated information, research or corrections going into the new pieces. It is for this reason that we will likely not see an end to the anti-storm chaser articles, as new outlets publish stories based either in full or in part on past published articles. Once one story is published, it will lead to an infinite series of new ones. The momentum of the anti-storm chasing narrative (traffic jams and bad behavior) set in motion long ago will be difficult to stop, even if they have been debunked.

This video by in-the-know independent journalist Tim Pool offers a coherent description of the problem:

 
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Dan Robinson

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Bumping this thread with some additional information, since we've seen churnalism in full force with chaser articles this spring.

1.) Print media outlets see declining revenues thanks to internet competition

2.) Outlets notice how successful that inflammatory and partisan content is.

3.) Outlets fire their longtime professional journalists and hire low-budget firebrand writers who will naturally produce inflammatory and controversy-sowing pieces

4.) Story ideas have predetermined conclusions in advance. Sound bites and disparate bits of information are selectively included to match the theme of the story.

5.) These pieces are successful in terms of viewership and advertising revenue.

6.) Other news outlets note the successful pieces, and re-write them with minimal changes to continue the cycle.

If Tim Pool's word isn't enough, the chaser traffic thing should be all you need to be convinced this is happening. Even if you disagree with the conclusions on my chaser traffic web pages, isn't it interesting that none of the stories on chaser numbers in the past few years have referenced my site, or even one or two of its points? My page has been number one for a Google search on this subject since 2015.

You cannot trust *anything* that is coming out of mainstream news outlets today. Everything they cover is treated the same way. There are some good people with integrity still in the business, but unfortunately they have little influence on what gets published.

The concerning thing is that matters of great importance to this country are treated in the same way, with people on both sides of the spectrum being led to believe a myriad of things that are simply not true.
 
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Jun 16, 2015
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quincyvagell.com
It's all about perspective. On one hand, you have the positive aspect of storm chasing, including research, weather enthusiasts documenting extreme weather as a passion, spotters relaying timely, potentially life-saving reports to NWS, chasers turning into first responders, etc., while on the other hand, you have the issues of chaser accidents, tour vans being flipped, roads being blocked by chasers, doppler vans driving recklessly, etc.

In news, the negative stories are often the ones that make headlines. This is why an average newscast spends more time talking about deaths, tragedies, terrorism, etc., as opposed to heart-warming stories, examples of good Samaritanism, etc.

It's not that the perspective is being told inaccurately, it's that it's being told more on one side than the other. Sure, some stories fabricate the issue and make it sound like every storm chase day is apocalyptic from a traffic/safety standpoint.

Most chasers probably fall somewhere between the two perspectives, or at least they're in the "silent majority" of the story. I would suspect that most chasers hit the roads hoping to see/document an extreme storm and that's it. What they do does not have much of an impact (positive or negative) on the community, meaning chase community and local community. Most don't drive recklessly, but most aren't doing something to truly save lives either. There have been a few positive stories in the press about this, but not much. There have been some storm chasing documentaries and series, but even most of them are over-dramatized as well.

I'm not sure anything can "correct," this issue, but maybe chasers should try recording vlogs about their chases and try to spread this sort of thing on social media? Maybe talk about what they do to prepare for a chase, show footage from an actual storm chase (without extreme convergence/gridlock, for example) and then share footage from the chase at the end. Turn it into a story. I think a lot of chasers do this to a lesser extent, for example, @Dan Robinson posting dash cam footage and when I post chase recap blogs on my website. Those don't tell the whole story though.
 

Jeff Duda

Resident meteorological expert
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You cannot trust *anything* that is coming out of mainstream news outlets today. Everything they cover is treated the same way. There are some good people with integrity still in the business, but unfortunately they have little influence on what gets published.
The underlined statement is an overreach, and you know it. If you don't, then you need to take the tin foil hat off your head and learn how to scrutinize news material for what is legitimate and what is not. I'm not saying it's easy, but it's best to avoid making blanket statements like this in the opposite direction, because that results in overcorrection.
 

Dan Robinson

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Jeff you said it yourself. It is *necessary* to scrutinize everything coming out of mainstream sources. If you take any article at face value, you are being misinformed.

The factors I listed above are not "tin foil conspiracy" points. They are happening industry-wide and are well-documented.
 

Jeff Duda

Resident meteorological expert
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Scrutinizing /= automatically distrusting. The mental and nuanced granularity and discretion required to be able to scrutinize journalism without automatically discounting it is what makes an appropriately journalistically educated society. While it takes effort, it is also necessary. Using stereotyping to skip steps is most peoples' initial instinct, and it is certainly easier, but it's just not helpful, and not what one ought to do.
 
Jan 6, 2019
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Tyler
We should educate people that it's 10 hours of driving and only about 10 minutes of action. Maybe that'll discourage people from the hobby. On the other hand, people still go to Disney parks with the same waiting to riding ratio.
and they go back the next year to Disney parks to go through it all again.
 
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Jun 1, 2008
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www.linkedin.com
Quitting chasing is like retiring from sports. How many change their mind and come back?

I've talked about punting May and going in June starting next year. However I have to be honest; I'll jump on a good late May trough. Plus May climo is closer to personal interests (friends and family). Regardless I'm still chasing.