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Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Lazygate

A tiny but brazen piece of churnalism has just amused me in a post on WITsend, a blog on ComputerWeekly.com that is ‘…a place for women in IT…tackling issues facing women and other minorities working in technology’. The post, dated 12 January and headed ‘Frances Allen: first woman to win Turing Award’, begins

Frances Allen was has become the first woman to receive the prestigious Turing Award since it was set up in 1966.

Why did the author first write ‘has become’ and later correct it to ‘was’? And why did she draw attention to the change by retaining the struck-through words? The explanation is at the end:

Correction: this story is true, but it’s not new! Allen received the award in 2007, no idea why I got sent a press release on it now.. sorry!

So she took a single press release, and without even the slightest cross-checking – not even a quick glance in Wikipedia – she generated her blog post. Wish I could be so fluent. I have been all over the Net in the course of checking this and that, just for this tiny squib.

In case any reader does not know the term, ‘churnalism’ is the journalistic practice of recycling press releases as news with only the minimum of rewriting. It is a Bad Thing, and the blog author should care, because it is one of those issues facing women and other minorities working in technology. And men. And majorities. And people not working in technology.

When this woman got egg on her face, she did not even have the grace to be embarrassed by the exposure of her sloth. Instead of making the change silently, hoping no-one would notice, she flaunted this decline in standards (can you see what’s coming? Yes …) She should have hidden the decline. Phil Jones could have given her some pointers.

11 comments to Lazygate

  • You’re being too picky. Hardly a hanging offence really.

  • Giles

    Oh come on. Rewriting press releases is very poor form, granted, but I’ve always heard it was best practice to visibly update blog entries and admit your mistakes. Hardly flaunting it, more simple honesty. I’ve seen many Samizdatistas (sp.?) do it too.

    Or were you just trying to set yourself up for the CRU joke?

  • Bjarni

    She did what we want Journalists to do. To admit to errors when they occur and make public any changes to the published text.

    The unthinking regurgitation of press releases is one thing, but I think she handled the egg on her face correctly.

  • I see what you did there; I lol’d.

  • Chris

    It was the rehashing of a single press release that was the primary offence. Not caring about it was the secondary offence. Not concealing her revision was a virtue, I concede – it let me make my cheesy joke.

  • I concede – it let me make my cheesy joke.

    Fair enough :-P

  • “Instead of making the change silently, hoping no-one would notice, she flaunted this decline in standards (can you see what’s coming? Yes …) She should have hidden the decline.”

    That’s my sort of humour – more like this please!

  • Actually it took me a while to realise you were not in fact having a go at this woman, who freely admitted her mistake, unlike certain other folks… the punch line is… subtle.

  • Me too. I suggest that irony tags should be a standard feature of the SI formatting interface:-)

  • It’s like really wanting an irony tag, and finding we haven’t got one! Isn’t it Alanis?