Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Churnalism to sell pomegranate-extract capsules

When former Daily Star reporter Rich Peppiatt gave evidence at the Leveson Inquiry last week, he referred to the 'huge influence' of PR on tabloid 'stories':

There are more PRs than there are journalists. You get into your inbox every day dozens upon dozens upon dozens of press releases from various companies all trying to get in the paper, get their brand mentioned.

And many of them do get into the paper. Every day there are numerous 'stories' in the papers based on surveys of 2,000 people (so we're told). But, said Peppiatt:

the veracity of where that survey has come from -- is it representative, how many people were asked -- are simply not questions you're encouraged to ask. You know, you just take it at face value: "Yeah, I'm sure that will do for us." Because as I say, it's not about necessarily finding the truth of something; it's simply sort of filling the hole.

If it's not based on a survey, it's based on academic or scientific research. For example, a few weeks ago, this press release was repeated by the Express:

The paper's Nathan Rao stated:

Now a study shows an extract of it taken regularly could slow down the deterioration of the body’s DNA cells, which in turn can delay the ageing process.

Later in the article, he reported that it was an 'industry-funded study'.

The press release was designed to sell pomegranate-extract capsules PomeGreat PurePlus. The Express mentioned the product:

Commercial versions of the extract are already available in the UK from the Pomegreat PurePlus company in a capsule form or as a juice drink.

They also mentioned that the 'study' had been untaken by Dr Sergio Streitenberger at 'Spain’s Probeltebio laboratories'.

What the paper didn't say was that Streitenberger is: 

head of research

at ProbelteBio - and ProbelteBio just happens to be

the manufacturer of PomeGreat® PurePlus.

The Mail's Tamara Cohen also wrote up the press release uncriticially.


  1. "the body's DNA cells"?! *Headdesk*

  2. If there was ever an indictment of the state of scientific knowledge within the ranks of tabloid journalists this is it. "The body's DNA cells." Amazing.


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