Funny Business

Manjoo isn’t laughing at The Onion as much as he used to. He blames the newspaper’s “new Internet-focused publishing process”:

I ran my criticisms by some former Onion staffers, and a few agreed with my take. (Though none for the record: “I lived in fear of articles just like this one pointing out that the Onion wasn’t funny anymore,” one former editor told me.) But they also suggested something I hadn’t considered—that with the CNN piece and many others, the Onion’s writers might be making fun of themselves as much as they’re taking on the rest of the media.

“If you look through the Onion over the last half-year, there’s a ton of stories about how horrible it is to work for the Onion,” one former staffer told me. Among them:

Executive Creative Too,” about the CEO of a media company who claims “his sensibilities are very refined and even edgy, and that he thinks of himself as ‘at heart, more of a writer and idea guy than a businessman.’ ” In January, after the Atlantic ran a “sponsored” story by the Church of Scientology, the Onion shot back with, “SPONSORED: The Taliban Is A Vibrant And Thriving Political Movement.” But that joke (and “Sponsored Content Pretty Fucking Awesome,” from May) was likely aimed at the paper’s bosses, too, who’ve been warring with the editorial side over whether the paper should run sponsored stuff.

In other words, now, more than ever, the Onion is in the same boat with the rest of the media. Writers and editors at the Onion face the same pressures as their straight-news brethren—a mandate to be faster, to do more with less, to have insta-opinions on everything even if it means sometimes being wrong.

Weigel seconds Manjoo’s complaints. Noreen Malone, on the other hand, calls the publication “the country’s best op-ed page”:

The Onion isn’t Democratic or Republican. It’s clearly got a left-leaning outlook, but the editorial position is more properly characterized as against bullshit. This can include everything from the highhanded way Barack Obama deals with the press (“Dear The Onion,” reads a letter to the editor “from” him, “Just a polite reminder that you have to print whatever I send you”) or the appalling things campaigns make politicians do (“Romney Murdered JonBenet Ramsey, New Obama Campaign Ad Alleges”) or CNN’s unseemly pageview-trolling (“Let Me Explain Why Miley Cyrus’ VMA Performance Was Our Top Story This Morning.”) Bullshit also includes the way people go through the motions of “dialogue” (as in this faux opinion column titled “America Needs To Have a Superficial Conversation on Race”) or fake-apologize (“The Onion isn’t sure exactly what it did wrong but it’ll apologize if that’s what you need to hear to move on”). Bullshit is even the way people deal with veterans, and what war does to people. (“Town Nervously Welcomes Veteran Back Home.”)