Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Satire in context...

I heard a piece on npr's 'Talk of the Nation' the other day about The Onion, the "fake news" newspaper. Greg Beato, columnist of Reason magazine, wrote a column called: Amusing Ourselves to Death, (a nod to Neil Postman) about the rise in popularity of The Onion while all other major newspapers are losing readership at an alarming rate. Beato said: "The Onion recently achieved a 60 percent increase in print circulation and attracts more than two million online readers per week."

Here is a link to interview with Beato on NPR: Satirical 'Onion' Attracts Readers Online, in Print.

Having quite a bit of contact with students at a four year college in Massachusetts, I am fascinated by this trend. I find that my students sometimes find articles in The Onion funny, but often they don't have the facts or the context to truly understand the underlying piece of news. This is the same with The Daily Show and Stephen Colbert. If the readership does not have the background to understand the Iraq war, or the debate and eventual veto of the SChip program, then the humor often clouds the issue. For example, one recent article in The Onion was: Reaganomics Finally Trickles Down To Area Man. This is clearly only funny if you know about trickle-down economics, and/or if you knew about the policies instituted during the Reagan presidency. Otherwise it just sounds like it should be funny.

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