In college I knew a girl who majored in communications. She'd been interested in becoming a radio DJ, but decided to give it up because music DJs on the radio these days, she said, don't really do anything but push play. And it's true. I don't think there's a DJ on the air who actually chooses the music they play, certainly not on any of the Clear Chanel stations that have infected Cleveland's airwaves. DJs don't patter* anymore. The don't, like Alan Freed back in the day, coin terms like rock and roll**. They read the script, announce the traffic, and then push play.
And that's what came to mind when I heard an NPR story about the Web site http://churnalism.com/. Churnalism, according to the founders of this British Web site, is the practice of taking press releases and churning them into news stories, often with no further research or information. And if you think about it, it's pretty rare, nowadays, to read a story in the newspaper in which a reporter has actually gone out in the field, learned things, asked questions, stirred up trouble, and made enemies. The extent of investigative reporting around here seems to be local news stations telling me that local restaurants are unsanitary (news flash: I've done a lot of food service work, and I gotta tell you, it doesn't matter what restaurant you're at, there are gross things going on in the kitchen).
Anyway, the folks at churnalism.com, to kick off their site, sent out a press release of their own:
Gorgeousgarters.com are seeing their new limited range of chastity garters (which can detect when the wearer is having sex and alert her partner by text) are proving hugely popular among male buyers, including one well known premiership footballer worried about his wife playing away - while he plays away.
It was supposed to be the most preposterous story they could think of, one which no sane reporter would ever think of running without first checking to see if the thing existed. Except they did. Do a Google search, man. The story was picked up all over the world, with serious news organizations printing this inanity.
It's weird that a society so cynical is also so credulous.
Of course, you're hearing this from the girl who totally let Snopes.com trick her into thinking Mr. Ed was a zebra.
*The term patter comes to us from Pater Noster, the Latin for Our Father, referring to the way someone sounds when mumbling prayers rapidly. On a related note, I try to teach parrots to chant the Our Father in Latin every time I see one in the pet store. True story. So far no luck - the best I've gotten was some conspiratorial whispering, followed by a vicious beak attack.
**Which, in urban black slang of the day, was a euphemism for sex.
PS: Before I got Puck, I didn't know there was such a thing as belligerent cuddling. Seriously, cat, sometimes mommies need to type.