No one seems to care about satirical news sites until mass media corporations (and their friends) are duped.
In recent years, sites like The Onion and the The Daily Currant have, on more than one occasion fooled mainstream media. The Washington Post published that Sarah Palin was joining the Al-Jazeera network and China’s top communist paper, China’s People’s Daily, reported that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un was named Sexiest Man Alive.
Where, and on whom the accountability lies is a grey area for most. The public believes media corporations and journalists should be fact checking for them, but what does it say about these types of sites if even the media can be fooled?
Margaret Dron, a Web Developer and Researcher at Humber College says, “journalists should be taking the necessary steps to make sure a story is legitimate before (re)publishing it. Everyone just wants to be first these days”.
Do satirical sites, and sites, which claim to be satirical, have just as much responsibility to advertise their work as comedy as those consuming it have to verify where their news comes from?
Based on the 2014 study by the Media Insight Project, in a single week roughly six out of ten Americans have only read headlines as their main news consumption.
With legitimate headlines like NBC’s, “Sign language ISIS video looks to snare deaf, mute recruits in Europe” and the Los Angles Times headline, “Oklahoma fraternity’s racist chant may also cost its black chef his job” it’s not hard to imagine how people can be easily fooled – journalistic or otherwise.
If a large majority of the public isn’t even putting in the effort to read an entire article – does it even matter if these sites make it even more obvious they are not meant to be taken seriously?
The one key difference between satirical bigwig The Onion and The Daily Currant is transparency. The Onion’s masthead can easily be found at the bottom of their main page, while The Daily Currant’s Contact Us page contains a single email address and a plea for advertising revenue.
Jim Hawkins, a Carleton Film Studies graduate says, “I think satirical outlets offer a lesson about media criticality that may not be held by an audience towards legit outlets. When they fool other media outlets, I think it places front and centre the fallibility of our sources of news.”
When the question, “Should satirical news outlets make it more obvious they are only for comedic purposes,” was posed to my social media sphere, a resounding number of people disagreed.
Parker Johnston, Student and Background Actor says, “if someone like me can keep track of the differences, professional journalists have no excuse.”
Satirical websites will continue to exist, and more and more will pop up over time. The confusion between what is true news and what is false will keep happening to both legitimate news outlets and regular people alike.
Since no one will actively take the blame for who should ultimately be responsible for making sure this doesn’t happen – Should the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) or the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) take a legal actions into ensuring truth in news?