|Type||Parody news organization|
|Format||Tabloid and Website|
|Headquarters||Chicago, Illinois, United States|
|Founded||Madison, Wisconsin, USA 1988|
|Headquarters||Chicago, Illinois, USA|
|Key people||David Schafer (Chairman), Steve Hannah (CEO), Mike McAvoy (President), Josh Modell (General Manager, A.V. Club)|
|Products||The Onion newspaper, radio, video, books; The A.V. Club|
The Onion is an American news satire organization. It is an entertainment newspaper and a website featuring satirical articles reporting on international, national, and local news, in addition to a non-satirical entertainment section known as The A.V. Club. It says 90 percent of its web site readers are between 18 and 44 years old. Since 2007, the organization published satirical news audio and video online, as the "Onion News Network". Web traffic on theonion.com amounts to an average of 7.5 million unique visitors per month.
The Onion's articles comment on current events, both real and fictional. It parodies traditional newspapers with stories, editorials, op-ed pieces, and man-in-the-street interviews, using a traditional newspaper layout and an editorial voice modeled after that of the Associated Press. Its humor often depends on presenting mundane, everyday events as newsworthy ("Area Man Too Poor To Afford Movers, Too Old To Get Help From His Friends") or parodying the media's portrayal of news ("NSA Wiretap Reveals Subject May Be Paying Too Much For Long-Distance").
A second part of the newspaper is a non-satirical entertainment section called The A.V. Club that features interviews and reviews of various newly released media, as well as other weekly features. The print edition also contains restaurant reviews and previews of upcoming live entertainment specific to cities where a print edition is published. The online incarnation of The A.V. Club has its own domain, includes its own regular features, A.V. Club blogs and reader forums, and presents itself as a separate entity from The Onion itself.
Originally a print publication, The Onion launched its website in 1996. It ceased publishing print editions in December 2013.
- 1 History
- 2 Distribution
- 3 Regular features
- 4 Reporters and editors
- 5 Video and audio content
- 6 Film
- 7 The Onion taken seriously
- 8 Books
- 9 Fictional profile
- 10 See also
- 11 References
- 12 External links
|This section needs additional citations for verification. (February 2008)|
Tim Keck and Christopher Johnson, juniors at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, founded The Onion there in 1988. The following year, they sold it to Editor-in-Chief Scott Dikkers and Advertising Sales Manager Peter Haise for less than $20,000 ($16,000, according to The Washington Post; a 2003 Business 2.0 article reported the figure was $19,000). Reportedly, it was Chris Johnson's uncle, Wm. Nels Johnson, who came up with the idea to name the paper The Onion. "People always ask questions about where the name The Onion came from," said former President Sean Mills in an interview with Wikinews; "and, when I recently asked Tim Keck, who was one of the founders, he told me...literally that his uncle said he should call it The Onion when he saw him and Chris Johnson eating an onion sandwich. They had literally just cut up the onion and put it on bread." According to former Editorial Manager, Chet Clem, their food budget was so low when they started the paper that they were down to white bread and onions.
At first, The Onion was a success in a limited number of cities and towns, notably those with major universities (e.g. Madison, Milwaukee, Chicago, Champaign-Urbana). Originally the entire bottom three inches of the paper could be cut off for coupons to local Milwaukee and Madison establishments, such as inexpensive student-centered eateries and video rental stores.
The creation of its website in 1996 allowed it to receive national attention in the US. In 2000, as the publication had broken through to the mass market, The Onion was approached by Comedy Central for a buyout that would broaden the scope and reach of The Onion's brand of satire into other forms of media. In early 2001, the company relocated its offices to New York City. The paper continues to make occasional Madison references, placing odd stories in surrounding towns or running photographs of local landmarks to illustrate stories set elsewhere. In April 2007, The Onion launched The Onion News Network, a web video sendup of 24-hour TV news.
In March 13, 2006 The Onion launched a YouTube Channel, presented as a parody of American television news. As of 2013, the channel has over 600,000 subscribers. 
In January 2009, Mills left the company explaining that "the time has come for a new challenge."
In April 2009, The Onion was awarded a Peabody Award that noted "the satirical tabloid's online send-up of 24-hour cable-TV news was hilarious, trenchant and not infrequently hard to distinguish from the real thing."
In July 2009, various news outlets began reporting rumors of an impending sale of The Onion to a large media company. A further rumor indicated that such a sale would be announced on Monday, July 20, 2009. The purported sale was ultimately revealed as fictional Publisher Emeritus T. Herman Zweibel stating he'd sold the publication to a Chinese company, resulting in a week-long series of Chinese-related articles and features throughout The Onion website and publications. On Wednesday, July 22, 2009, The Onion Editor Joe Randazzo clarified the issue on National Public Radio's All Things Considered, saying: "I'm sure there are many Chinese conglomerates out there that would love to buy The Onion. We are, in fact, still a solvent independently owned American company." In 2000, Campus Circle, established in 1990, formed a relationship with The Onion as Campus Circle Media (CCM).
In August 2011, The Onion's website began testing a paywall model requiring a $2.95 monthly or $29.95 annual charge from non-U.S. visitors who want to read more than about five stories within 30 days. "We are testing a meter internationally as readers in those markets are already used to paying directly for some (other) content, particularly in the UK where we have many readers," said Onion, Inc. chief technology officer Michael Greer. This new attempt at a paywall comes 6 years after the removal of the ill received Onion Premium paywall which launched in 2004 and was taken down in 2005.
In September 2011, it was announced that The Onion would move its entire editorial operation—including print & Onion News Network—to Chicago by the summer of 2012. The news of the move left many of the writers—who moved with the publication from Madison, WI to New York City in 2000—"blindsided" putting them in a position to decide whether to uproot themselves from New York City and follow the publication to Chicago or not. Chicago is already home to the company's corporate headquarters. At a comedy show on Tuesday September 27, 2011 then-Editor Joe Randazzo announced that he would not be joining the staff in Chicago. Further details of the internal issues surrounding the Chicago move—including an attempt for writers to find a new owner—are detailed in March 2012 articles in The Atlantic & New York Magazine. According to a March 31, 2012 article in the Chicago Tribune, founding editor Scott Dikkers returned to the publication stating that he hopes to find a "younger and hungrier" pool of talent than what was available in New York City. "The Onion is obviously always going to draw talent from wherever it is," Dikkers said. "In Madison, people used to just come in off the street … and we'd give them a shot. The Onion has always thrived on the youngest, greenest people." According to a February 2013 article in Ad Age, the publication has not just survived, it's thrived since the 2012 move to consolidate operations in Chicago.
In August 2012, it was revealed that a group of former The Onion writers have teamed up with Adult Swim to create comedy content on a website called Thing X.  According to Adam Frucci, writing for website Splitsider, "The Onion writers had nothing else going on, and AdultSwim.com wanted to take advantage of that. But only because they smelled a business opportunity. Adult Swim is just looking at it from a business standpoint." On June 13, 2013 it was announced that Thing X would be shutting down with staff moving over to parent website adultswim.com on June 18, 2013.
The Onion's print edition was previously distributed for free in Milwaukee, Chicago, Denver, Indianapolis, Boulder, Omaha, Santa Fe, Ann Arbor, Columbus, and Providence. Since 2010, distribution in each local market has been handled by franchisees who license Onion content, print the paper under contract and distribute it, sell ads, and retain the advertising revenue as compensation. It was also made available via paid subscription by mail. However in the November 1, 2012 national print edition of the The Onion, a letter appeared on page 3 of the publication from President and CEO Steve Hannah stating that it was the last issue of the national print edition. Hannah cited the growth of the publication's online business model & success of franchise businesses. Included in a paper was the required disclosure document "U.S. Postal Service Form 3526 (Statement of Ownership, Management, and Circulation)" showing the circulation of the national edition as 1,530 as of November 1, 2012, which was signed by the publication's director of finance.
From 2005 to 2009, Los Angeles and San Francisco editions were published but discontinued in May 2009 because of a lack of advertising revenue.
In October 2010, The Onion announced four new business partnerships with media organizations across the U.S. including The Denver Post, Austin American-Statesman, St. Paul Pioneer Press and Wisconsin State Journal. Under the terms of the agreements The Onion maintains complete creative control while the four partnering media companies assume business management responsibilities for the newspaper's local distribution. Shortly thereafter, The Onion announced a similar deal with The Philadelphia Inquirer that brought the paper to Philadelphia for the first time, increasing the total number of markets where The Onion is printed and distributed to ten.
In March 2012, the Washington, D.C. & Philadelphia editions of the publication ceased publication with Mark Block of Philadelphia Media Network—the publication's local partner which had struggles of its own with their mainline newspapers—stating the print edition did not make enough money, "We put together a business model and it wasn't working to our expectations. But we do believe The Onion has great potential to find a partner where that success can be achieved."
In July 2012, the Toronto edition of the publication ceased operations with Toronto Star publisher and SMG president John Cruickshank stating, "We are announcing today that Star Media Group will be suspending publication of the Toronto edition of The Onion, the U.S.-based weekly news parody newspaper, due to economic pressures that have resulted in declining advertising revenues." Additionally, the Minneapolis print edition ceased publication, after the July 4th long weekend.
In October 2012, the New York City edition of the publication ceased operations with the publication’s president & CEO Steve Hannah stating, "Our focus in recent years has been on the digital side of our business. […] Unlike cities like Providence or Chicago or Denver or Austin, we have been unable to find a franchise partner in New York, a very crowded and competitive market for print advertising. If a viable partner emerged, we would be eager to resurrect print in New York. Unlike a lot of mainstream publications, we have never had a problem with readership." 
In July 2013, it was announced that the Madison print edition of The Onion would cease publication as of the July 25, 2013 issue. Onion CEO Steve Hannah confirmed that the decision was made by the Wisconsin State Journal, the contract printer for The Onion in the Madison market.
In November 2013, it was announced that the last remaining print editions of The Onion—Chicago, Providence, and Milwaukee—would cease publication as of the December 12, 2013 issue, ending a 25-year run of the publication producing a print edition.
Regular features of The Onion include:
- "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.
- Guest opinion pieces and regular columnists
- Bizarre horoscopes
- "News in Photos", a feature with photographs of seemingly common or inconspicuous things labelled with captions revealing a hidden thing about it; the photos may also be of people, both famous and anonymous.
- "The ONION in History", a front page produced in the style/format of newspapers of an earlier era, from the book Our Dumb Century
- "In the News" photograph and caption with no accompanying story (such as "Frederick's of Anchorage Debuts Crotchless Long Underwear", "National Association Advances Colored Person", and "Owls Are Assholes".)
- "American Voices" (formerly called "What Do You Think?"), a mock vox populi survey on a topical current event. There are three respondents, down from the original six, for each topic, who seem to have been chosen intentionally to represent a diverse selection of ages, races, and socio-economic classes. Although their names and professions change daily, photos of the same six people are almost always used. One of them is often described as a systems analyst.
- An editorial cartoon drawn by "Kelly", a fictional character; the cartoons are actually the work of Ward Sutton. The comic—the most controversial feature in The Onion—is a deadpan parody of conservative cartoons, as well as editorial cartoon conventions in general. Roughly half of the cartoons feature the Statue of Liberty, usually shedding a single tear, of joy or anguish, depending on the situation.
The website was redesigned in 2005:
- All archives were returned to being free; and Onion Premium, a failed attempt at a paid-subscriber model section of the site, was discontinued.
- "What Do You Think?" became "American Voices," with the question updated every weekday, and only three responders for each question, instead of six.
- "In the News" was retitled "From the Print Edition"
- The Onion began publishing web-only content on a daily basis, such as a daily fictional stock market analysis titled "Stock Watch" (one of which appears in the print edition every week), a web opinion poll titled "QuickPoll" (since discontinued), "National News Highlights" of three regional stories, the cover of The Onion Weekender (a parody of PARADE magazine), The Onion Magazine (a parody of The New York Times Magazine), and OSN The Magazine (a parody of ESPN The Magazine) and The President's Weekly Radio Address.
- The nationally syndicated Onion Radio News, a brief audio clip read by anchor Doyle Redland, became a daily feature. In early 2006, Onion Radio News podcast was launched, and quickly shot to No. 1 on the iTunes list of top podcasts.
- A sports section was introduced, having archival material from old issues in addition to new articles (such as "Matt Leinart Wins Beauty Portion of 2006 NFL Draft") and rotating headlines such as "New York Rangers Honor Proud Madison Square Garden Tradition by Losing". This has since been expanded into the full-fledged OSN section.
The Onion website is updated every day, most significantly (and historically before the move to daily updates) on Wednesday afternoons; and The Onion newspaper is distributed on Thursdays. More recently, the website was moderately redesigned. Changes included:
- The President's Weekly Radio Address was discontinued.
- A new navigation bar was added to the top of most pages, excluding OSN, with links to video, ONN on TV, Sports, Politics, the other sections (see below) and News Beat.
- A new section termed "News Beat" was introduced, gathering fake weather reports and featured quotes, interactive quizzes and polls, the cover to the most recent editions, and what stories are popular right now.
- The Opinion, Local, Sci & Tech, and Entertainment sections were linked at the bottom of the home page, filed under 'More' on the new navigation bar.
- A new video series titled The Onion Review showcasing some of the top stories in The Onion and related media from the week.
- ONN online segments had their graphics updated, specifically to match the ONN TV series in the lower-thirds.
Reporters and editors
||This section is about an event or subject but does not specify the time period.. Please help improve it to include this information as Wikipedia is viewed by a worldwide audience. The talk page may contain suggestions. (October 2009)|
The current Editor-in-Chief of The Onion is Will Tracy; and the writing staff is Cole Bolton, Chad Nackers, Jermaine Affonso, Django Gold, Jocelyn Richard, Jen Spyra and Seena Vali. Past writers have included Todd Hanson, Mark Banker, Max Cannon, Amie Barrodale, Rich Dahm, Mike DiCenzo, Megan Ganz, Joe Garden, Janet Ginsburg, Dan Guterman, John Harris, John Krewson, Chris Karwowski, Dave Kornfeld, Tim Harrod, David Javerbaum, Ben Karlin, Peter Koechley, Carol Kolb, Joe Randazzo, Seth Reiss, Jason Roeder, Maria Schneider, Robert D. Siegel and Jack Szwergold.
Video and audio content
In March 2007, The Onion launched Onion News Network, a daily web video broadcast that had been in production since mid-2006, with a story about an illegal immigrant taking an executive's $800,000-a-year job for $600,000 a year. The Onion has reportedly invested about $1 million in the production and has hired 15 new staffers to focus on the production of this video broadcast. Carol Kolb, former Editor-in-Chief of The Onion, is the ONN's head writer; Will Graham is the showrunner and Executive Producer. On February 3, 2009, The Onion launched a spin-off of the ONN, the Onion Sports Network.
In a Wikinews interview in November 2007, former Onion President Mills said the ONN had been a huge hit. "We get over a million downloads a week, which makes it one of the more successful produced-for-the-Internet videos," said Mills. "If we're not the most successful, we’re one of the most. It is a 24 hour news network. We have a new show that is part of the platform, but we also have a Sunday morning talk show that’s called In The Know and we just launched a morning show this last week called Today Now. It has been really exciting; we'll have some new shows, show some archive footage and do some more in sports over the next year."
In August 2011, the Writers Guild of America, East, AFL-CIO announced the unionization of the Onion News Network writing staff, averting a potential strike which hinged on pay and benefits. It is also not the first time Onion, Inc. has been criticized for the way it treats its employees: In June 2011 A.V. Club Philadelphia city editor Emily Guendelsberger was the victim of an attack, and according to the Philadelphia Daily News, her job did not provide health insurance to cover hospital bills. According to the WGA, ONN was the only scripted, live-action program that had employed non-union writers. "The ONN writers stood together and won real improvements", said WGAE Executive Director Lowell Peterson. "We welcome them into the WGAE and we look forward to a productive relationship with the company." Peterson noted that more than 70 Guild members from all of the New York-based comedy shows signed a letter supporting the ONN writers, and hundreds of Guild members sent emails to the producers.
- Joe Amato as Glen Bannon and Michael Bannon
- Michele Ammon as Jean Anne Whorton
- Bobbie Battista as herself
- Beau Baxter as Reggie Greengrass
- Jeremy Beiler as Jason Copeland
- Bob Bowdon as Brian Scott
- Julie Brister as LauraLee Hickock
- Todd Alan Crain as Jeff Tate
- Esther David as Jane Carmichael
- Dorothi Fox as Nancy Fichandler
- Kyla Grogan as Andrea Bennett
- Lori Hammel as Leslie Hillerman
- Brad Holbrook as Jim Haggerty
- Brian Huskey as Duncan Birch
- George Riddle as Joad Cressbeckler
- Bobby Rivers as Robert Haige
- Tracy Toth as Tracy Gill
- Jennifer Dorr White as Julianna McKannis
- Suzanne Sena as Ana Gentry and Brooke Alvarez
- John Cariani as Michael Falk
To further invoke the atmosphere of a 24-hour network, The Onion News Network video series includes items lifted from what are ostensibly ONN news shows and continuing reports:
- Today Now!: TN is a parody of morning lifestyle and news programs such as NBC's Today and ABC's Good Morning America. Hosted by Jim Haggerty (Brad Holbrook) and Tracy Gill (Tracy Toth), the style is typical of the breezy style often found in morning network television shows, with the presenters either uncritical or completely oblivious to the subject matter presented, regardless of the absurdity of the subject (e.g., Haggerty's earnest question about whether or not an omelet recipe strictly requires a metal shoe-horn to measure the butter into the pan). The series was featured within Porkin Across America.
- In The Know with Clifford Banes: A parody of Sunday morning pundit shows, ITK is supposedly hosted by Clifford Banes, who never actually appears on his own program due to a continuous succession of absurd or improbable circumstances, and is led by a guest host who explains why Mr. Banes cannot attend (e.g., "... filling in for Clifford Banes, who is wandering along I-97 in a bathrobe with no memory of who he is"). An Onion-style current political event is examined earnestly by ITK's pundit panel from every angle regardless of how odd it might seem. In one 2011 sketch, Clifford Banes apparently appeared, however, wearing a "perfect latex Julianna McKannis mask," (another panelist).
- Beyond The Facts: A parody of evening news channels' news magazine programs. "BTF" is hosted by ONN's Jean Anne Whorton (a Diane Sawyer parody played by actress Michele Ammon); a former ONN prime-time anchor, known for her compassionate interviewing skills and her "great hair". Whorton has received three Gracie Awards (American Women in Radio and Television National Awards), and goes in-depth, exploring the soft underbelly of issues while nodding thoughtfully at the real story behind the headline.
- War For The White House: ONN's continuing coverage of Election '08, opening with a dramatic video apparently depicting Air Force One and a squadron of fighter planes seemingly attacking the White House, mocking the intense, over-the-top style that seems to have become typical in straight news coverage. Notable for its consistent use of military terminology (e.g. "Election Analysis Bunker") and deadpan style.
- O-SPAN: O-SPAN parodies the thoroughgoing coverage of Congress provided by C-SPAN, including spoof bill-readings on the House floor and spoof committee meetings.
- ONN-International: A parody of CNN-International, ONNI debuted November 2008. Boasting coverage in 152 languages over 811 countries and with 9 billion viewers, ONN-International presents news from around the world often with subtitles such as this story from the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
- OSN: A reference to ESPN, OSN usually features clips from SportsDome, a parody of ESPN's SportsCenter. The clips usually focus on specific parodies of SportsCenter segments such as the Budweiser Hot Seat, which becomes The Steam Room on OSN. Hosts present in the jocular style synonymous with ESPN and sportscasters on sets that are near-identical knockoffs of the SportsCenter studios. On January 11, 2011, cable network Comedy Central launched the "Onion SportsDome", an off-shoot of the OSN feature, marking the first time an ONN feature became a full-fledged television series. It has since been cancelled.
- News Room: Is a parody of breaking news segments that appear during commercial breaks or replays on 24-hour news networks. News Room, anchored by Andrea Bennett and Glen Bannon (a name check to Jeff Gannon of Talon News) is set in the fictional 24-hour cable news television network's news room with TV's and switchboards in the background. With the advent of ONN on IFC, the "News Room" segments have become increasingly rarer, though portions are occasionally shown on the IFC series.
- Raw Justice: A parody of news channels' popular documentaries on attention-grabbing crimes. It looks into ordinary crimes, although the reporter always finds a way to relate a story to the culprit's sexual actions such as "Man had sex with wife thousands of times before killing her". This segment has been discontinued.
- The Cressbeckler Stance: A parody of prime-time news commentary shows such as Hannity and Huckabee. Features commentary on political issues by former prospector Joad Cressbeckler, a character first introduced as a third-party presidential candidate, an even more "grizzled and ornery" alternative to John McCain, in a War For The White House segment.
- StarFix: Parody of Access Hollywood.
After a commercial, each item is capped off by a teaser featuring a headline joke. The news reports also have a news crawl filled with joke headlines (this was featured in the first season of ONN on IFC, but has since been dropped).
Onion Digital Studios
In 2012 The Onion launched a series of YouTube videos produced by its Onion Digital Studios division, funded in part by a grant from YouTube and exclusive to the site. Series produced so far:
- Sex House A dark satire of reality show culture and negligent producers.
- Lake Dredge Appraisal: A show centering around the dredged salvage of a lake, appraised of its worth on public access television.
- Trouble Hacking with Drew Cleary: A mock Life Hacking Q and A series.
- Horrifying Planet: A nihilistic parody of nature documentaries.
- Onion Talks: A satire of TED Talks.
- Porkin' Across America with Jim Haggerty: An on-the-road food reality show featuring Jim Haggerty from Today Now.
- America's Best: An American Idol parody.
- Dr. Good: Parody of Dr. Oz
- "The Onion Review" – Provide weekly news updates from America's Finest News Source
- "Today Now!" - A satire of morning talk-shows such as ABC’s “Good Morning America”
- 24 Hour News" - Covers national and international news.
- "Tough Season" - Take a look into the world of fantasy football
- "Onion Special Report" - In-depth news coverage from America's Finest News Source
- "StarFix" - Entertainment news from America's Finest News Source
- "The AV Club" - Videos from The Onion's arts and entertainment publication, The A.V. Club
- "Onion Film Standard" - The Onion's head film critic Peter K. Ronsenthal examines movies both new and old.
The Onion Radio News is an audio podcast featuring P. S. Mueller as fictional newscaster Doyle Redland.
Created in 2003, Fox Searchlight Pictures was on board to release the movie, originally called The Untitled Onion Movie, but at some point in the process, directors Tom Kuntz and Mike Maguire and writer Robert Siegel walked away from the project.
In 2006, New Regency Productions took over the production of the troubled project. After two years of being in limbo, the film was released on DVD on June 3, 2008. It is now credited as being directed by James Kleiner but still written by Hanson and Siegel.
The Onion taken seriously
Upon occasion, the straight-faced manner in which The Onion reports non-existent happenings has resulted in third parties mistakenly citing The Onion stories as real news.
- In 1998, Fred Phelps posted The Onion article "'98 Homosexual-Recruitment Drive Nearing Goal" on his "God Hates Fags" website as "proof" that gay people were indeed actively trying to "recruit" others.
- 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 the article "Congress Threatens To Leave D.C. Unless New Capitol Is Built". The story discusses the U.S. Congress's threats to leave Washington for Memphis, Tennessee; Charlotte, North Carolina; or even Toronto, Canada unless Washington, D.C. 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. Evening News initially stood by the story, demanding proof of its falsehood. It later retracted the article, responding that "some small American newspapers frequently fabricate offbeat news to trick people into noticing them with the aim of making money."
- In late March 2004, Deborah Norville of MSNBC presented as genuine an article titled "Study: 58 Percent Of U.S. Exercise Televised".
- In 2006, the Danish television station TV 2 posted a story on the gossip section of its website that took seriously The Onion article titled "Sean Penn Demands To Know What Asshole Took SeanPenn@gmail.com"
- An article on Harry Potter inciting children to practice witchcraft was the subject of a widely forwarded email which repeated the quotes attributed to children in the article. Columnist Ellen Makkai and others who believe the Harry Potter books "recruit" children to Satanism have also been taken in by the article, using quotes from it to support their claims.
- In September 2009, two Bangladeshi newspapers, The Daily Manab Zamin and the New Nation, published stories translated from The Onion claiming Neil Armstrong had held a news conference claiming the moon landing was an elaborate hoax. Neither realized The Onion was not a genuine news site. Both of the newspapers apologized to their readers for not checking the story.
- In October 2009, the Russian news site Russia.ru repackaged clips from The Onion video piece "New Anti-Smoking Ad Warns Teens 'It's Gay to Smoke'" as legitimate news.
- In February 2010, among others the online newspapers Il Corriere della Sera (Italy) and Adresseavisen (Norway) repackaged clips from The Onion video piece "Denmark Introduces Harrowing New Tourism Ads Directed By Lars Von Trier" as legitimate news.
- In June 2010, the soccer website Sofoot.com (France) mistook for real news the article "Nation's Soccer Fan Becoming Insufferable", picked up the story and translated it partially on their own website under the title "La solitude du supporter ricain" ("The Yankee supporter's loneliness"). The article even ends with a kind word for the fake fan, telling him to be brave and to hang on.
- In November 2010, The Fox Nation website, a part of the Fox News network, presented as fact The Onion's article about President Barack Obama writing a 75,000 word e-mail complaining about America as a genuine report.
- The blog Literally Unbelievable (started 2011) showcases posts from Facebook users who take various Onion articles seriously.
- In September 2011, United States Capitol Police investigated reports coming from The Onion's Twitter account claiming that US congressmen were holding twelve children hostage.
- On January 7, 2012, Lim Hwee Hwa, a Singaporean former MP, posted an article titled "Obama Openly Asks Nation Why On Earth He Would Want To Serve For Another Term" from The Onion on her Facebook page, with the comment "Increasingly challenging everywhere, whatever Obama's campaign strategy might be".
- On February 3, 2012, Congressman John Fleming (R-Louisiana) posted a link to an article on his Facebook page about an $8 billion "Abortionplex" opened by Planned Parenthood, with the status "More on Planned Parenthood, abortion by the wholesale."
- Iran's Fars News Agency copied almost word-for-word a September 24, 2012 Onion story, "Gallup Poll: Rural Whites Prefer Ahmadinejad to Obama" and reported it on September 28. The Onion updated the original story with the note: "For more on this story: Please visit our Iranian subsidiary organization, Fars," linking to a screenshot of Fars's coverage of the story. The version on the Fars website was removed later in the day.
- On November 14, 2012, the Onion ran a story titled, "Kim Jong-Un Named The Onion's Sexiest Man Alive For 2012." On November 27, 2012, the online version of the Chinese Communist Party newspaper The People's Daily ran a story on Kim Jong-Un, citing The Onion's parody. The People's Daily web site included a 55-page photo gallery with the article in tribute to the North Korean leader.
- On December 3, 2013, The Onion released a parody video mocking New York City’s controversial “Stop and Frisk” program. The program is designed to allow police officers to stop anybody they believe to be suspicious, question them and even frisk them for weapons, drug paraphernalia, etc. Over 650,000 people were stopped to be questioned and/or frisked in 2011. This astounding number of people was largely made up of African-Americans or Latinos. The Onion took advantage of this controversial New York City program in their video, calling the program “Stop and Kiss”. The spoof depicted police officers stopping people on the street, whom they considered to be suspicious, and kissing them on the lips. Many people on social media believed what they saw in the satirical video and were shocked. In one instance, someone who saw the video tweeted “Wtf is wrong with NYPD? Ain’t no police gone stop me and kiss sh-t!”. In another case, a retired New York City police officer even wrote on The Onion’s page, asking “what has become of the department” and exclaiming “I am glad I retired!!!!!” People have been mistaking The Onion’s news stories since the Onion’s conception.
U.S. Presidential Seal dispute
In September 2005, the assistant counsel to President George W. Bush, Grant M. Dixton, wrote a cease-and-desist letter to The Onion, asking the paper to stop using the presidential seal, which is used in an online segment poking fun at the President through parodies of his weekly radio address. The law governing the Presidential Seal is contained in 18 U.S.C. § 713:
Whoever knowingly displays any printed or other likeness of the great seal of the United States, or of the seals of the President or the Vice President of the United States, or the seal of the United States Senate, or the seal of the United States House of Representatives, or the seal of the United States Congress, or any facsimile thereof, in, or in connection with, any advertisement, poster, circular, book, pamphlet, or other publication, public meeting, play, motion picture, telecast, or other production, or on any building, monument, or stationery, for the purpose of conveying, or in a manner reasonably calculated to convey, a false impression of sponsorship or approval by the Government of the United States or by any department, agency, or instrumentality thereof, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than six months, or both. (emphasis added)
By Executive Order, President Richard Nixon specifically enumerated the allowed uses of the Presidential Seal, which are more restrictive than the above title (Executive Order 11649), but which allows for exceptions to be granted upon formal request.
The Onion has responded with a letter asking for formal use of the Seal in accordance with the Executive Order, while still maintaining that the use is legitimate. The letter written by Rochelle H. Klaskin, The Onion's lawyer, is quoted in the New York Times as saying "It is inconceivable that anyone would think that, by using the seal, The Onion intends to 'convey... sponsorship or approval' by the president," but then went on to ask that the letter be considered a formal application asking for permission to use the seal.
85th Academy Awards controversy
During the 85th Academy Awards, a post from The Onion's Twitter account called 9-year-old Best Actress nominee Quvenzhané Wallis "a cunt". The post was deleted within an hour, but not before hundreds of angry responses. CEO Steve Hannah issued an apology to Wallis and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, calling the remarks "crude and offensive" and "No person should be subjected to such a senseless, humorless comment masquerading as satire." Scott Dikkers, Vice President Creative Development for the publication, said in a Monday interview that the publication has sent a note of apology to Quvenzhané and her family but also stated, "She’s a big star now. I think she can take it." The apology was denounced by some former Onion writers who believe, "It wasn't a great joke, but big deal."
- Our Dumb Century: The Onion Presents 100 Years of Headlines from America's Finest News Source (1999, ISBN 978-0609804612. OCLC 680088372)
- The Onion's Finest News Reporting, Volume 1 (2000, ISBN 0-609-80463-4)
- Dispatches from the Tenth Circle: The Best of The Onion (2001, ISBN 978-0609808344. OCLC 680101036 and 225924624)
- The Onion Ad Nauseam: Complete News Archives Volume 13 (2002, ISBN 1-4000-4724-2)
- The Onion Ad Nauseam: Complete News Archives Volume 14 (2003, ISBN 1-4000-4961-X)
- "Fanfare for the Area Man": The Onion Ad Nauseam Complete News Archives Volume 15 (2004, ISBN 1-4000-5455-9)
- "Embedded in America": The Onion Ad Nauseam Complete News Archives Volume 16 (2005, ISBN 1-4000-5456-7)
- "Homeland Insecurity": The Onion Ad Nauseam Complete News Archives, Volume 17 (2006, ISBN 0-307-33984-X)
- Our Dumb World: The Onion's Atlas of the Planet Earth (2007, ISBN 978-0316018425. OCLC 474118895)
- Our Front Pages: 21 Years of Greatness, Virtue, and Moral Rectitude from America's Finest News Source (2008, ISBN 978-1439156926. OCLC 472312888)
- The Onion Book of Known Knowledge: A Definitive Encyclopaedia Of Existing Information (2012, ISBN 978-0316133265. OCLC 813219870)
History and founding
Officially, the paper purports to be over 250 years old, having originally published in the mid 18th century. It was named the "Mercantile Onion" because those were the only two English words the paper's immigrant founder, Friedrich Siegfried Zweibel, knew at the time. (Zwiebel is German for "onion".) The newspaper's motto was originally Tu Stultus Es (Latin for "You are stupid").
In 1896 Zweibel's 20-year-old grandson, T. Herman Zweibel became editor, a position he supposedly holds to this day despite being over 130 years old and largely senile. For much of the 20th century the paper was highly reactionary and parodied the yellow journalism and sensationalism prevalent in print media during the early part of the century. It violently opposed every social reform the century brought forward, from women's suffrage to married characters sleeping together in the same bed on television. T. Herman Zweibel penned a weekly commentary until 2000, when he was rocketed into space toward the Andromeda galaxy, ostensibly leaving The Onion in the joint control of Bernard Baruch and Aunt Jemima.
In recent Onion Radio News releases, beginning December 15, 2008, the concluding ad for Our Dumb World has stated: "For over 350 years The Onion has given you the day's news...".
- 1756: Friedrich Siegfried Zweibel founded the Mercantile-Onion
- 1783: First edition of The Onion News-Paper, purporting to be the first newspaper to carry advertisements (namely for The King of Broil'd Meats and John Jameson's Miracle Concoction), is released.
- 1850: F. Siegfreid's son, Herman U., took over the company.
- 1888: T. Herman Zweibel, assumes editorial directorship
- 1892: Onion 24-Hour Television News Network (ONN) founded, preceding the advent of television. It can now be seen in 811 countries around the world by over 9 billion people.
- 1896: T. Herman Zweibel, F. Siegfried's grandson, took over the company, upon death of Herman U. Zweibel.
- 1922: Onion Radio founded.
- 1958: Zweibel was court-ordered to retire.
- 2000: Zweibel left Earth itself (The Final Frontier, T. Herman Zweibel).
- 2009: The Onion and all corporate holdings sold to a Chinese conglomerate, Yu Wan Mei Amalgamated Salvage Fisheries and Polymer Injection Corporation.
- 2009: The Chinese conglomerate, Yu Wan Mei Amalgamated Salvage Fisheries and Polymer Injection Corporation, having felt misled in its acquisition of The Onion, has placed The Onion up for sale less than one week after purchasing the paper.
Contributors and editors
The Onion's fictional editor is T. Herman Zweibel (Zwiebel is German for "onion", and also close to the name Zweifel (German for "doubt"), a family closely associated with the Madison newspaper The Capital Times), who has "held the position since 1901" and is rather insane.
The Onion publishes several columns by (fictional) regular and guest writers, including:
- T. Herman Zweibel, The editor who used to publish a weekly column until being launched into space. He is incredibly old and constantly suffering from illness. He is unaware of modern thinking and technology, seems to be borderline sociopathic (fondly remembering a school trip in which he bashed in his friend "piggens" head with a rock, referencing Lord of the Flies), and believes that dead historical figures such as Kaiser Wilhelm are still alive. He unknowingly references several works of fiction (remembering his childhood sled "daisy petal"). He employs many people, such as Standish the manservant, his Swiss guard, and many nurses.
- Jim Anchower, an upbeat but aimless slacker and stoner who freely discourses upon his difficulties with his over-accessorized, under-serviced Ford Festiva and with finding and maintaining regular accommodation and McJobs.
- Jean Teasdale, an overweight, occasionally employed, married but childless woman aged around 40. Jean appears to be oblivious to her husband's alcoholism and philandering. Instead, she masks her depressing parochial life with a relentlessly upbeat attitude and delights in cheap kitsch collectibles and sentimental, Hallmark-style movies. Her column is called "A Room of Jean's Own" (a reference to A Room of One's Own by Virginia Woolf).
- Smoove B, a smooth talking ladies' man whose columns are directed toward his girlfriends or potential dates. He is known for describing his planned dates in extreme detail, often straying from the romantic to the mundane. The structure of the comedy consists of a series of romantic come-on lines, featuring cliched enticements such as cognac, chocolates, and massages, followed by a blunt sexual reference.
- Roger Dudek, an inept humor columnist whose feature, "Write On The Funny!", contains nonstop clumsy puns and similes, while demonstrating a casually abusive attitude towards members of his family.
- Jackie Harvey, a parody of a celebrity-spotting gossip columnist, notable for incompetently spelling celebrity names.
- Amber Richardson, a white, uneducated single mother who writes in African-American Vernacular English about her many misadventures in raising her illegitimate children including visiting the health clinic, constantly changing jobs as well as lovers, and defending her questionable qualifications in childrearing.
- Larry Groznic, an overweight, confrontational "fanboy" whose disagreements with friends over obscure nerd trivia are documented in hostile letters typically demanding conversion to his point of view. Groznic bears a resemblance to Comic Book Guy of The Simpsons, in both appearance and personality.
- Gorzo the Mighty, the Emperor of the Universe, a villain in the style of Ming the Merciless.
- Department Head Rawlings, the mysterious head of an unnamed organization of international spies.
Former contributors include:
- Herbert Kornfeld, accounts receivable supervisor, an accountant who was raised on the streets and spoke in gangsta rap-isms and ebonics. He had an ongoing feud with the members of accounts payable ("Accounts Payabo"), and his columns often mentioned his street accounting mentor CPA-ONE, and his colleagues to whom he referred by "street" monikers such as "Kount von Numbakrunch". Killed on April 30, 2007.
- Arch Danielson, an elderly man who wrote "The Silver Screen", a series of rambling, non-sensical movie reviews that often diverted towards random topics. His persona was retired around 1998, in favor of Jackie Harvey.
In addition, The Onion has some recurring characters in its news stories, such as Don Turnbee, a 41-year-old from Erie who frequents fast-food establishments. Starting in 1997, reports of Turnbee's experiences describe his difficulties negotiating an all-you-can-eat buffet, food island etiquette, beverage top-ups, condiment sachet accumulation, and chronic indigestion. Headlines typically describe Turnbee as an "Area Man". Vice President Joe Biden is also featured prominently as a recurring fictional character.
Similar satirical newspapers and magazines exist in many countries, including:
- The Chaser (Australia)
- Frank (Canada)
- The Clinic (Chile)
- Feral Tribune (Croatia)
- Titanic (Germany)
- Faking News (India)
- The UnReal Times (India)
- The Phoenix (Ireland)
- Academia Caţavencu (Romania)
- Moskovskaya Komsomolka (Russia)
- El Jueves (Spain)
- Grönköpings Veckoblad (Sweden)
- Private Eye (UK)
- The Daily Mash (UK)
- The Civilian (New Zealand)
- Le Gorafi (France)
- "Onion Nation: A Look Inside the Offices of 'The Onion'". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2013-11-26.
- Onion, Inc. contact page
- The Onion's Front Pages, a November 2, 2009 The New York Times article
- "The Onion Media Kit". Retrieved 2012-12-05.
- "Канал користувача TheOnion". YouTube. Retrieved 2011-03-23.
- Blooming Onion, a January 10, 2011 Chicago Tribune article
- Farhad Manjoo (September 5 2013). "A Disturbance in the Force". Slate. Retrieved December 13 2013.
- "The Onion: Funny site is no joke". Business 2.0 (CNN). 29 August 2003. Retrieved 2008-11-21.
- Parodies of current events catch interest of unlikely readers, Kathlyn Hotynski, The Spectator (University of Wisconsin–Eau Claire), February 8, 2007.
- An interview with The Onion, David Shankbone, Wikinews, November 24, 2007.
- Onion co-founder extols the virtues of humor | Yale Daily News
- Cyber Elite, Onion print editions Oct. 14–21, 1999, May 25 – June 1, 2005, July 23–30, 2008
- The Onion. "TheOnion From The Onion". MinOnline. Retrieved 2013-12-10.
- Steve Smith. "Sean Mills Peels From The Onion". MinOnline. Retrieved 2011-03-23.
- Complete List of 2008 Peabody Award Winners from the Peabody Awards website
- Sandoval, Greg (15 July 2009). "No Joke: Report says The Onion discussing sale". news.cnet.com. Retrieved 2011-03-23.
- Ryan Tate (17 July 2009). "Onion Sale Announcement Monday?". Gawker.com. Retrieved 2011-07-27.
- "Well, I've Sold The Paper To The Chinese". Theonion.com. Retrieved 2011-03-23.
- Ryan Tate (20 July 2009). "Chopped Onion Makes Us Cry". Gawker.com. Retrieved 2011-07-27.
- A New Owner For 'The Onion'? All Things Considered, July 22, 2009
- "Campus Circle: About Us". Campus Circle Media. Retrieved July 15, 2012.
- The Onion Testing A Metered Paid Model paidContent:UK, August 5, 2011
- The Onion’s CTO: Its paywall experiment is just that Nieman Journalism Lab, August 8, 2011
- About The Onion's new paid content system... The A.V. Club, August 8, 2011
- Onion Premium Notes from a Teacher, April 22, 2004
- Onion Goes Premium CyberJournalist.net, April 22, 2004
- The Onion moving to Chicago, leaves writers ‘blindsided’ Digital Journal, September 22, 2011
- The Onion Could Move To Chicago, Forcing NYC Writers To Relocate Or Leave Huffington Post, September 21, 2011
- The Onion to move editorial staff to Chicago headquarters Huffington Post, September 221, 2011
- The Onion is Leaving New York FishbowNY, September 22, 2011
- The Onion to move editorial staff to Chicago Chicago Sun-Times, September 22, 2011
- The Onion editorial staff to move from New York to Chicago Poynter.org, September 22, 2011
- The Onion Editor Joe Randazzo To Leave Ahead Of Chicago Move Huffington Post, September 29, 2011
- The Onion's Bumpy Ride to Chicago The Atlantic, March 2012
- Writers at The Onion Refusing to Leave New York for Chicago New York Magazine, March 22, 2012
- Nothing Fake About The Onion’s Move New York Magazine, March 31, 2012
- Can Chicago create a sustainable professional comedy industry to rival the coasts? The BEZ, April 5, 2012
- Built for Newsprint, The Onion Finds New Life In Social, Video Ad Age, February 25, 2013
- Adult Swim launches Thing X to compete for Internet comedy supremacy Digital Trends, October 17, 2012
- Adult Swim and Former 'Onion' Writers Are Teaming Up to Produce Comedy Videos, Maybe Splitsider, August 13, 2012
- Thing X is Becoming Adultswim.com Thing X, June 13, 2013
- Thing X Is Shutting Down and Moving to AdultSwim.com Splitsider, June 13, 2013
- Gilmer, Marcus (27 May 2009). "The A.V. Club comes to Omaha and Santa Fe". The Onion A.V. Club. Retrieved 2011-06-09.
- "'‘Onion’ coming to Columbus under deal with Dispatch". Columbus Business First. 25 August 2011. Retrieved 2011-08-25.
- 01:00 PM - December 7, 2010 You, Too, Can Own a Piece of The Onion “America’s Finest News Source” is now franchising out its printing biz By Lauren Kirchner http://www.cjr.org/the_news_frontier/you_too_can_own_a_piece_of_the.php?page=all
- The Onion, Vol 48, Issue 44, November 1, 2012, Page 3
- Evangelista, Benny (6 May 2009). "The Onion stopping its editions in S.F., L.A.". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 2011-03-23.[dead link]
- Alvarez, Alex (22 October 2010). "Adding Layers: The Onion Announces New Media Partnerships". Mediabistro.com. Retrieved 2011-03-23.
- "The Onion rolls into town with new Philly edition". Newsworks.org. 3 March 2011. Retrieved 2011-03-23.
- "Print Editions Of ‘The Onion’ No Longer Available In Philadelphia". philadelphia.cbslocal.com. 14 March 2012. Retrieved 2012-03-14.
- "The Onion Ceases Distribution In D.C., Philadelphia". buzzfeed.com. 22 March 2012. Retrieved 2012-03-22.
- "Star Media Group pulls the plug on The Onion/A.V. Club". The Tyee. 20 July 2012. Retrieved 2012-07-21.
- "A.V. Club Toronto to Shut Down". The Onion A.V. Club. 19 July 2012. Retrieved 2012-07-21.
- "The Onion stops printing in Twin Cities, closes A.V. Club in four markets". City Pages. 22 June 2012. Retrieved 2012-06-22.
- "The Onion ceases NYC print edition (so get a computer, Brooklyn)". The A.V. Club. 26 October 2012. Retrieved 2012-10-26.
- "The Onion will cease publication in Madison". The Isthmus Daily Page Online. 12 July 2013. Retrieved 2013-7-12.
- "Capital Newspapers ends contract to print The Onion". Wisconsin State Journal. 12 July 2013. Retrieved 2013-07-12.
- "The Onion Will End Publication In Madison, Wisc.—The City Where It Started". Chicagoist. 13 July 2013. Retrieved 2013-07-13.
- "Area Man Will Miss The Onion's Print Edition". The Atlantic Wire. 8 November 2013. Retrieved 2013-11-8.
- Hackwork hacked, Los Angeles Times, March 29, 2007. Retrieved April 27, 2007.
- "Press ‘Play’ for Satire: March 23, 2007 The Wall Street Journal Article". March 23, 2007.
- "Onion SportsDome: Get Sportsed (YouTube Advertisement)".
- "Onion News Network – Fact Zone – Coming To IFC January 2011 (YouTube Advertisement)".
- "Coming Soon: IFC Renews The Onion News Network Plus So Much More".
- Goldberg, Lesley (20 June 2011). "'Sports Show With Norm Macdonald,' 'Onion SportsDome' Canceled". The Hollywood Reporter.
- Luippold, Ross (29 July 2011). "'The Onion' Strike Possible: TV Show Embattled In Writers Guild Of America Standoff". Huffington Post.
- Luippold, Ross (2 August 2011). "'Onion' Strike Averted: 'Onion News Network' TV Writers Join Writers Guild Of America". Huffington Post.
- "Onion News Network Writers Join Writers Guild Of America, East".
- "Onion News Network Writers Join WGA East Fold". Reuters. 2 August 2011.
- "This Just In: WGA East Unionizes Onion News Network".
- "Onion News Network Writers Join WGAE".
- Luippold, Ross (March 21, 2012). "Onion News Network Canceled: IFC Spokesperson". Huffington Post.
- McGlynn, Katla (April 24, 2013). "'Onion News Empire' Trailer: Amazon Instant Video Pilot Stars Jeffrey Tambor (VIDEO)". Huffington Post. Retrieved April 25, 2013.
- "Chef Cooks 'Dream Omelet' From Recipe That Came To Him In A Dream". The Onion. Retrieved 2011-03-23.
- "Report: Baby Skull Jewelry May Be Linked To Violence". The Onion. Retrieved 2011-03-23.
- "Ithe know with Clifford Banes". The Onion. Retrieved July 20, 2011.
- "Crime Reporter: Man Had Sex With Wife Thousands Of Times Before Killing Her". The Onion. Retrieved 2011-03-23.
- "Old, Grizzled Third-Party Candidate May Steal Support From McCain". The Onion. Retrieved 2011-03-23.
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- The Untitled Onion Movie
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- "article "Sean Penn Demands To Know What Asshole Took SeanPenn@gmail.com"". Theonion.com. Retrieved 2011-03-23.
- "Hvem har hugget Sean Penns emailadresse?" (in Danish). TV 2. 18 January 2006. Retrieved 2013-02-19.
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- "Actu foot – News, classement, résultats et toute l'actualité Football sur". Sofoot.com. Retrieved 2011-03-23.
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- The Onion: Our Dumb Century
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- "Retrieved 2008-11-30". Theonion.com. Retrieved 2011-03-23.
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- "The Onion Sells Itself to China, and a New Comedic Genre Is Born". Mother Jones. 23 July 2009. Retrieved 2011-07-27.
- Smoove B's page at The Onion.
- Smoove B's columns at The Onion.
- White-On-White Violence Claims Life Of Accounts Receivable Supervisor. The Onion. Retrieved 2007-10-02
- From Fake Newspaper to Real Serious, a New York Times profile on former editor Robert Siegel with insight on his tenure there
- Area Satirists Stay in the Picture from New York magazine
- Turning Fake News Into Real Careers from MSNBC
- Wisconsin Wise Guys Plot TV Takeover from Broadcasting & Cable
- From the Onion to Comedy Central to the Oscars from the New York Times
- Viacom and The Onion: Parody or Deal? from a New York Times blog
- Reporting What the Public Wants to See 127 Years from Now, from The New York Times, July 5, 2010
- The Onion
- "Literally Unbelievable" 'Stories from The Onion as interpreted by Facebook' – an archive of Facebook posts about hoax stories