In a time when print news is in the trash, The Onion’s parody is still going strong online. But how have The Onion’s print publications been staying afloat? It’s hard to tell since news about the fake newspaper is also difficult to take seriously. Any time a serious journalist reports on The Onion, I find myself checking the date of the article to make sure it wasn’t written on April 1st. We do in fact know that The Onion had to lay off editors in California in 2009, canceling print editions in both San Francisco and Los Angeles. As a result, The Onion had to turn to some serious advertiser “pandering” as Gawker claimed , after saying no to a lot of deals over the years. So it wasn’t surprising when The Onion “sold” to a Chinese company that same year… or at least we were told they were sold. NPR, however, confirmed the joke, though many bloggers took it seriously.
Through its strife, The Onion is reminding us how skeptical we should be of all news, not just that which we know is fake. As I read NPR’s account of the buyout and statements from Onion editor Joe Randazzo, I wonder how I can believe anything the man says. He is the editor of a notorious and prolific fake publication, after all. There are only a few things in the media that we can be sure of and one is that we aren’t buying it, commercially that is. Luckily, The Onion is doing a few things right, like moving into video, sound clips, and apps to maintain readership and prevent an early death in the ever diminishing world of publications.