The Onion’s Digital Director Baratunde Thurston: News Is Absurd

From Jon Stewart’s “The Daily Show” to The Onion to Stephen Colbert’s “The Colbert Report,” fake news has become as much a part of the national dialogue as the real news it parodies. Why? The Onion’s Baratunde Thurston shared his thoughts with the audience at Fast Company’s recent Most Creative People in Business 2011 event.

Most Creative People in Business 2011
From Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show to The Onion to Stephen Colbert’s The Colbert Report, fake news has become as much a part of the national dialogue as the real news it parodies. During the 2008 presidential campaign, for example, then-candidates Barack Obama and John McCain both appeared on Stewart’s program, making Comedy Central almost as much of a campaign stop as “Meet The Press.” And while Bill O’Reilly might admonish viewers of such programs as “stoned slackers,” at least one study has indicated that fans of fake news are also some of the best-informed.

Why are Americans more and more turning to fake news?

“I think people turn to us in part because legitimate news has become so absurd that it’s often hard to tell the difference,” said Baratunde Thurston during a hilarious and enlightening talk at Fast Company‘s Most Creative People in Business event last week. Thurston, The Onion‘s digital director and No. 49 on our list, said he believes viewers are growing skeptical and tired of the melodramatic coverage now common on cable news.
“[There’s] something happening with the lack of trust in legitimate news,” he said.

But he’s not concerned that the parody is replacing the medium being parodied. “I don’t think people get their news from us–I think they get our take on the news from us,” Thurston said, “which only makes sense if you know a little bit about what’s happening in the world.”

Read more about the Most Creative People in Business.

[Illustration: Esra Roise]

About the author

Austin Carr writes about design and technology for Fast Company magazine.

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