The Onion

From Academic Kids

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The Onion: "America's Finest News Source"

The Onion is a newspaper of parody and satire, published weekly in print and on the Internet. As of May 2005, its print editions are distributed in Madison, Milwaukee, New York City, Chicago, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Denver/Boulder, and San Francisco.

Its articles comment on current events, both real and imagined (an example of the latter: "All Americans Issued Life Jackets for Some Reason"). It parodies traditional newspaper features and styles. The paper often reports on minor events in a sensationalistic manner ("Area Man Confounded by Buffet Procedure"). Obsession with fame and celebrity are frequently satirized.

Regular features include:

  • The Onion A.V. Club, a straightforward but like-minded entertainment section;
  • "STATshot", an illustrated statistical snapshot which parodies "USA Today Snapshots";
  • The "Infograph" (a.k.a. "Infographic"), with a bulleted list of items on a theme;
  • Point-Counterpoint;
  • Random and bizarre editorials;
  • Cynical horoscopes;
  • "The ONION in History": a front page produced in the look of newspapers of an earlier era, satirizing that earlier style and content (these are all taken from the book "Our Dumb Century");
  • "In the News" photograph and caption (such as "Frederick's of Anchorage Debuts Crotchless Long Underwear"); and
  • "What Do You Think?", a survey showing photos of the same six people, although their names and professions change every week. One of them is always a "systems analyst."

The staff of the Onion have also produced numerous books, including Our Dumb Century and Dispatches from the Tenth Circle.

In the 22 June 2005 edition [1] (, the site had news from the year 2056, featuring stories inculding the possibility of a female dolphin for president.


Reporters and editors

The Onion's fictional editor is T. Herman Zwiebel (Zwiebel is German for onion), who has "held the position since 1901" and is rather insane; the real editor is currently Carol Kolb, and the current writing staff is comprised of assistant editor Amie Barrodale, writers Todd Hanson, Maria Schneider, John Krewson, Joe Garden, Chris Karwowski and Peter Koechley, as well as the graphics work of Mike Loew and Chad Nackers. Past writers have included Rich Dahm, Scott Dikkers, Tim Harrod, David Javerbaum, Robert Siegel, and Jack Szwergold.

Each issue features columns by (fictional) regular and guest writers. The regular contributors include:

  • Jim Anchower, a slacker with a different job every few weeks, whose musical tastes are stuck in 1970s rock and roll
  • Larry Groznic, a dweeb with an obsession for subcultural fandoms
  • Herbert Kornfeld, Accounts Receivable Supervisor, a man with a boring desk job who speaks in ebonics
  • Smoove B, a smooth talking ladies' man. His columns are written about potential dates. He is known for going into extremely detailed paragraphs about his planned dates, and then adding a short, non-detailed sentence as an afterthought. He always wants to have the best of everything for his dates.
  • Jean Teasdale, an overweight woman obsessed with cuteness.
  • Jackie Harvey, a ridiculously uninformed media critic who writes the column The Outside Scoop.


The Onion was founded in 1988 and originally published in Madison, Wisconsin by two juniors at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Tim Keck and Christopher Johnson; they sold it to colleagues the following year. The Onion remained a regional success until it began its website in 1996.

As of 2004 the paper's founders are publishers of other weeklies: Keck of the Seattle weekly The Stranger and Johnson of Albuquerque's Weekly Alibi.

The Onion and the real world

In 1998, controversial minister Fred Phelps posted the Onion article '98 Homosexual-recruitment drive nearing goal on his God Hates Fags website as proof that homosexuals were indeed actively trying to get straight people to join their ranks.

Just after the 2000 U.S. Presidential election, when the future President remained undetermined, the Onion published a story titled "Bush or Gore: 'A New Era Dawns'" which parodied the similarities between the two politicians. The noteworthiness of this story was largely a matter of luck: the paper went to press election night, before the contested election results which led to Bush v. Gore. As the recount process unfolded, the Onion published a satirical issue reporting chaos in America, in which Serbia sent peacekeepers to the U.S. to introduce democracy and protect their interests in the region, and Bill Clinton declared himself dictator for life.

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The Onion's graphic for its coverage of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

The Onion's coverage of the September 11, 2001 attacks less than two weeks following the attacks was one of the earliest satirical reactions to those attacks, and was considered for a Pulitzer Prize.

On June 7, 2002, Reuters reported that the Beijing Evening News republished, in the international news page of its June 3 edition, translated portions of a story from The Onion (they were apparently unaware of The Onion's satirical nature). The story discusses the U.S. Congress's threats to leave Washington for Memphis, Tennessee or Charlotte, North Carolina unless Washington, DC built them a new Capitol building with a retractable dome. The article is a parody of U.S. sports franchises' threats to leave their home city unless new stadiums are built for them. The Evening News is Beijing's most popular newspaper, claiming a circulation of 1.25 million.

In late March 2004, Deborah Norville of MSNBC presented as genuine an Onion article claiming that 58 percent of all exercise done in the United States is done on television. [2] (

Columnist Ellen Makkai and others who believe the Harry Potter books recruit children to Satanism have also been taken in by the Onion's satire, using quotes from an Onion article as evidence for their claims. [3] ( [4] (

Recently, an article from The Onion appeared on the Advanced Placement English Language and Composition test, in which students were asked to write an essay analyzing its use of satire.[5] (


The Panini TV tie-in, Doctor Who Magazine recently ran a series of spoof news reports called The Space Time Telegraph in the style of The Onion. These pages always had the same picture of a devastated woman being comforted, but with diffrent news headlines.


See also

External links versions of articles

  • September 26, 2001 edition ( (coverage of WTC attack)
  • Bush or Gore (
  • Congress Threatens To Leave DC (
  • Harry Potter article (

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