North Texas Daily

Silly news makes waves across campus, nation

Silly news makes waves across campus, nation

Silly news makes waves across campus, nation
September 17
23:40 2014

Joshua Knopp / News Editor

Tonight, UNT’s fine arts series welcomes a man who changed the way the world views news.

Scott Dikkers founded satirical newspaper “The Onion” in 1988 and co-owned it from 1989-2001. Since then, it has become normal for Americans to get their news from satirical sources, such as “The Onion” and “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.” According to a May 2012 study by “Business Insider,” the satirical “Daily Show” was actually more informative than the three major 24-hour news networks.

“The Daily Show” isn’t the only satire organization that’s popped up in “The Onion’s” wake. Social media has made it easier, according to journalism lecturer and social media expert Samra Bufkins. Localized satire websites have been popping up more and more recently, including three focused on UNT – “Unofficial UNT,” “The North Texas Pigeon,” and “The Electric Eagle.”

Bufkins said she is concerned by the wide availability of satire leading to genuine confusion. She pointed to a “National Report” article earlier in the year during the outbreak of violence in Gaza that said the Church of the Holy Sepulchre had been hit by a rocket. There was no real indication that this story was untruthful, and Bufkins said it caused her and her friends great distress.

“What social media is doing is it’s making it easier for people to come up with sites that are so real, it makes you wonder,” she said. “That’s what I think social media has enabled, is people doing mean things with satire.”

Bufkins said the reason satirical news sources are more informative is they are largely immune to the segmentation that has affected 24-hour news networks. Many of the news organizations that scored lower than “The Daily Show,” Bufkins said, are more focused on pandering to their audience than disseminating the news.

Associate political science professor Matthew Eshbaugh-Soha, who studies presidency in the media, agreed, saying satire is driven by the joke, not the ideology.

He said these websites and television shows end up doing a better job of disseminating news because they do a better job of reporting in the first place.

“I bet they [“The Daily Show”] show more clips from C-SPAN than anybody,” he said. “Some of Stewart’s most successful jokes are just looking at what people are saying.”

While “The Onion’s” old editor is a celebrated speaker, UNT’s satirical news sources remain a mystery. “Unofficial UNT” hasn’t posted anything since April.

“North Texas Pigeon” entered the scene in June, sitting at almost 700 likes on Facebook. Former student Casey Webb, who dropped out to take a job in software development with Flower Mound-based company Proficiency, said he and senior Taylor Lindholm started the site.

Webb said social media was the key to the “Pigeon’s” success.

“We just started blasting it out as much as possible,” he said.

Webb said the initial goal was to stir up controversy and generate attention, like they did with a story about a mummy unearthed during union construction. One of their first stories, Webb said a lot of people didn’t know the site was fake and were angry.

“We were sitting there laughing our a–es off that people were angry about that,” he said.

Since the start of the semester, they’ve slowed down the content flow and focused on more meaningful satire.

“The Elecrtric Eagle” popped up shortly after the “Pigeon.” Some suspect a former North Texas Daily editor is behind it, but he has denied involvement.

Dikkers will speak in the Auditorium at 8 p.m. Sept. 18. Tickets are free for students, but must be reserved in advance at untuniontickets.com.

Featured Image: Founder of The Onion Scott Dikkers. Photo courtesy of UNT News.

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