“We’ve since learned that the fun site runs false and juicy reports based on a historic incident.” So went the spot-on encapsulation of the Onion‘s editorial mission, as summarized by Bangladesh’s Daily Manabzamin tabloid newspaper. The revelation was part of a correction for reprinting an Onion story that reported Neil Armstrong had been convinced the Moon landing was a hoax.
Indeed a sad moment in global journalism. Ironically, it sounds like an Onion headline itself:
Bangladeshi Tabloid Reprints False Story, Gives the
Onion Fleeting Sense of Credibility
My first reaction to the story (via BBC News) was a hearty “Oh, my.” Then it just became funny.
But overall, I’m going to go with troubling. Thing is, true journalism and entertainment have been colluding for a while — The Daily Show, naturally; Smoking Gun; blogs in general, etc. etc. — but as they become more and more dangerously intertwined we should be becoming more and more vigilant. And we’re not. Quick example: I’d like to think that the recent news that Wikipedia is going to control the editing of the bios of living notables is a sign that we’re beginning to embrace the notion of accountability. But more likely it’s just a result of some PR team raising a stink about embarrassing facts making it into their boss’s page, and making their lives hell. People want the scoop now and they’ll take the apologies later.
I guess the real takeaway here is: If you’re going to read Bangladeshi tabloids, do so with a critical eye.