How the Onion Can Save the News

| 10/25/2007 2:59:16 PM

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="" 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!)


The Celestial Monochord_2
11/7/2007 2:40:23 PM

Sounds correct to me. I have long insisted (in the shower, between songs) that today's most conservative advocates for traditional values in journalism are John Stewart and Stephen Colbert. Their careers are nothing but relentless attacks on the declining values of the "news" industry. Jim Lehrer is less conservative than those guys. Nobody seems to get this ... Favorite Onion headline: "Sweater Nice" _

10/30/2007 12:00:46 PM

The Onion is a great news source. The article “Bush: Our Long National Nightmare Of Peace And Prosperity Is Finally Over” ( is one of the most prescient pieces of writing I’ve ever read. I’m just not sure I’d like to see the New York Times running pieces like, “I’m Like a Chocoholic But For Booze.” (

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