Cut-and-paste Journalism?

A study on the sourcing practices in news media

The starting point of the study is the claim that the news media are increasingly dependent on ‘pre-packaged news,’ which has been seen as jeopardizing the independence of news journalism.

The aim of the study is to test two observations made in recent international studies: First, it is argued that external sources have ever more power over media and that, in particular, public relations professionals have increasing influence on news content. The relationship between journalism and PR has been typically characterized as adversarial. Recently, however, there have been growing concerns that, as the time pressures and demands for productivity intensify, journalists are increasingly unable to resist the influence of the public relations professionals.

Second, the independence of news output is said to be threatened by the fact that newsrooms increasingly circulate content within the media and are, thus, more dependent on each other. From the perspective of society, the problem is that competition tends to decrease diversity. Also, if the sourcing practices are not transparent, it is difficult for the audience to assess the origins and accuracy of the information.

This study observes the sourcing practices of news media through quantitative and qualitative analysis. The aim is twofold: First, the purpose is to explore the relationship between PR and journalism by establishing the extent to which Finnish journalism depends on public relations for its output and how this is manifested in news content. The second goal is to identify the role played by other media in shaping news content and to track how much the newsrooms derive and circulate material from their rivals.

The study consists of two phases: The first part is based on quantitative content analysis, while the second part consists of interviews with news journalists. The focus is on seven Finnish national news organisations: the Finnish national news agency (STT), the public broadcasting company (YLE), the two biggest commercial broadcasters (MTV3 and Nelonen), the biggest national daily (Helsingin Sanomat) and both of the Finnish tabloids (Ilta-Sanomat and Iltalehti).

Contact person:
Esa Väliverronen
esa.valiverronen at
+358-9-191 24841