Friday, September 30, 2011

Did The Onion's Recent Attempts at Satire Go Too Far? Or Just Get Our Attention?

Yesterday, The Onion, America's Finest News Source posted a serious of tweets and a satirical article about members of Congress taking school children hostage in the US Capitol. The article also featured a doctored photo (see below) and a short video clip.

While the story was obviously fake, the article and the tweets in particular have captured the attention of the mainstream media. For example, here's some  commentary from The Washington Post and an article in today's New York Times. In addition, the Capitol Police is now investigating the situation and The Onion's false reports of the attack. 

The Onion's reach on Twitter, (the satirical outlet had over 3 million followers as of August 2011 according to a report by Mashable) may explain much of the attention. Especially when you compare The Onion's Twitter followers to those of traditional print publications (from Mashable): 

"That’s about 300,000 more than Time, three times more than The Economist and 1.6 million more than Newsweek. Granted, The Onion also boasts the largest print and web circulation out of the four publications, but there’s more at work on Twitter than sheer eyeballs. The attention that The Onion gets on Twitter is a testament to its success of continuing its satire of news organizations onto social media."
Perhaps it's time to take The Onion -- or at least the outlet's reach and circulation figures, but not the satire -- more seriously?

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