Utne Blogs > Media

How the Onion Can Save the News

by Staff

Tags: The Onion, fake news, newspapers, media criticism,

These days, the newspaper industry is like a salmon that's just woken up from a nice nap to find itself flapping on the deck of a fishing boat, with a big hook through its lip. But one newspaper is thriving, and perhaps its business model is one that behemoths like the New York Times can emulate. That paper is the Onion, weekly purveyor of fake news, which has seen its print circulation grow 60 percent in the last three years.

Reason" href="http://www.reason.com/news/show/122453.html" target="_blank">Greg Beato writes in the November issue of Reason that newspapers can follow the Onion's lead by writing stories with more energy, abandoning the curse of the he-said she-said journalistic "Double Objectivity Sludge" that clogs the pages of news dailies. "Why not adopt [the Onion's] brutal frankness, the willingness to pierce orthodoxies of all political and cultural stripes, and apply these attributes to a genuinely reported daily newspaper?" he asks.

This sort of non-objective journalism does have precedents. Just look at H.L. Mencken, who made his crusty opinions palatable by doling them out with a diligent mind and a sharp wit. Or what about Mark Twain? He got his start writing for the Virginia City Territorial Enterprise, a newspaper that reported about as many facts as the Onion. These writers show that maybe the news doesn't have to be boring for it to be true. —Brendan Mackie

 (Thanks, Arts and Letters Daily!)