Sunday, October 21, 2007

The Onion

While I don't agree with the author's contention that mainstream newspapers should begin emulating The Onion, I do agree with his assessment of why we like it so much:
One reason The Onion isn’t taken more seriously is that it’s actually fun to read. In 1985 the cultural critic Neil Postman published the influential Amusing Ourselves to Death, which warned of the fate that would befall us if public discourse were allowed to become substantially more entertaining than, say, a Neil Postman book. Today newspapers are eager to entertain—in their Travel, Food, and Style sections, that is. But even as scope creep has made the average big-city tree killer less portable than a 10-year-old laptop, hard news invariably comes in a single flavor: Double Objectivity Sludge.

Too many high priests of journalism still see humor as the enemy of seriousness: If the news goes down too easily, it can’t be very good for you. But do The Onion and its more fact-based acolytes, The Daily Show and The Colbert Report, monitor current events and the way the news media report on them any less rigorously than, say, the Columbia Journalism Review or USA Today?

During the last few years, multiple surveys by the Pew Research Center and the Annenberg Public Policy Center have found that viewers of The Daily Show and The Colbert Report are among America’s most informed citizens. Now, it may be that Jon Stewart isn’t making anyone smarter; perhaps America’s most informed citizens simply prefer comedy over the stentorian drivel the network anchormannequins dispense. But at the very least, such surveys suggest that news sharpened with satire doesn’t cause the intellectual coronaries Postman predicted. Instead, it seems to correlate with engagement.
Read the story here.

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