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Nov 17, 2008

Churnalism — and domestic violence — alive and well. Shock.

A press release on domestic violence was snapped up by the papers, never mind that none had read the report, writes Jonathan Green.

Eagle eyed Crikey reader Warren Driver wrote:

I read and listened today to a string of reports around Australia that outlined research showing how “one in every three boys believes it is acceptable to hit girls and many children are routinely exposed to domestic violence, according to a disturbing survey”.

It has run prominently in newspapers and on radio stations. Somewhat surprised by the findings, I sought out the report. It hasn’t been released yet.

All that exists is a press release on the website of White Ribbon Day. It says the report can be obtained later today through a PR firm. The report was commissioned by White Ribbon Day organisers.

So, despite not knowing the methodology of the report, nor its accuracy and reliability, Australia’s mainstream media have run it as fact.

And he’s right. Go to the White Ribbon Day website and you”ll find the press release , embargoed to midnight Sunday, and a note that the detailed report “will be available online soon”. This didn’t stop multiple print outlets (there’s been a fair bit of radio too) from running with the yarn based purely on a press release that contains the following bald figures:

More than half a million teenagers are living with violence in the home a new White Ribbon Foundation report shows.

The report An Assault on Our Future: The impact of violence on young people and their relationships released today by White Ribbon shows that the violence is having a major impact on the long term health and wellbeing of Australia’s children.

White Ribbon Chairman Andrew O’Keefe says that the report highlights clear evidence that many boys hold violence supportive

  • Nearly one in seven (14%) of boys believe that “it’s OK to make a girl have s-x with you if she was flirting”;
  • Close to one in three (31%) boys believe “it’s not a big deal to hit a girl”;
  • nearly one in three (32%) boys believe”‘most physical violence occurs because a partner provoked it”.

Boys aged between 12-14 show higher support for these sorts of attitudes.

Strong stuff, on an important issue, but absolutely no mention of the methodology. Not that this stopped various outlets from running it without a second thought. This is the print tally as of noon today, thanks to Media Monitors. Just remember: none of these papers had the benefit of seeing the report, just the press release. But that presumably was all the proof they needed.

A spokesman for White Ribbon Day was able to send Crikey the full report late this morning.

  • “Abuse takes its toll” Bendigo Advertiser, 17/11/08, General News, Page 2
  • “Violence scars kids” Sunshine Coast Daily, 17/11/08, General News, Page 10
  • “Our houses of violence” Adelaide Advertiser, 17/11/08, General News, Page 1
  • “A quarter of young people see violence” Launceston Examiner, 17/11/08, General News, Page 10
  • “Physical violence at home leaves mark” Sunraysia Daily, 17/11/08, General News, Page 10
  • “Violence against women not a big deal” Canberra Times, 17/11/08, General News, Page 1
  • “Children miss out on skills” Herald Sun, 17/11/08, General News, Page 10
  • “Report shows abuse impact” Geelong Advertiser, 17/11/08, General News, Page 9
  • “Domestic violence affects a quarter of kids” Townsville Bulletin, 17/11/08, General News, Page 8
  • “Seeing violence at home affects young” Border Mail, 17/11/08, General News, Page 10
  • “Violence in home impacts our youth” Daily Liberal, 17/11/08, General News, Page 7
  • “One in four see abuse: report” Maitland Mercury, 17/11/08, General News, Page 6
  • “Violence all too familiar” Daily Advertiser, 17/11/08, General News, Page 38

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3 thoughts on “Churnalism — and domestic violence — alive and well. Shock.

  1. Katrina

    Churnalism – alive and well at Crikey of all places!

    Jonathan Green received a letter from a reader and decided to print it in full, without checking the facts contained in the letter….

    The reader was commenting on the White Ribbon Foundation’s report released today which highlights the distressing impacts of violence against women on children and young people.

    The reader states that ‘the report hasn’t been released yet’. Untrue. The full report was given to AAP, which many journalists use as a source for stories. Indeed most of the newspapers alleged to have engaged in ‘churnalism’ ran the AAP story. In addition the report was sent to the major daily newspapers around the country as well as to many broadcast chiefs of staff and reporters. Journalists who requested the study have been sent copies.

    And that includes Crikey, Jonathan called to ask for the report and was immediately sent a copy at midday today.

    The methodology of the report is not in question and very clearly outlined if you read it – it’s a fully referenced and peer reviewed literature review of more than 100 research papers on the issue that provides a timely and accurate overview of this important issue. The report is authored by Dr Michael Flood and Lara Fergus, noted academics in the field.

    Crikey – next time, be careful about questioning the credibility of others and get your facts right.

  2. dermot

    oh i see a litreature review . no new research then. what credibility.

  3. mike smith

    A ‘collation of references’ describes the full report better. As far as I could tell, skimming through it, they didn’t even conduct their own survey, if they did, I couldn’t find reference to questions asked or methodology.