Is the media beyond parody? AOL reports spoof as news

Just a quickie, to promote a site I find amusing – and to flag up something even more amusing resulting from it.

The News Grind is a satire site that I contribute the occasional bit of writing to if something catches my imagination.

Today the news that Kay Burley was descending on Newcastle to broadcast her appalling live reports from the vicinity of a freshly-dead corpse spoke to me, so I dashed something off in my lunch hour, emailed it to the ed and thought nothing more of it

Until a text arrived, telling me it had been picked up as a serious news report by AOL News on something called the Surge Desk, with a header pretty similar to the one I wrote.

AOL News bases a report on a spoof story on The News Grind

Fairly astonishing, in that mine is not an especially subtle satire at the best of times. But it would never occur to me that the header ‘Nation ‘can’t wait’ for Moat shoot-out’ might be taken for real.

Or that the suggestion that schools and businesses were closing so Brits could enjoy the rolling news coverage and resulting bloodbath together as a family could possibly be true.

Here’s how AOL saw it:

Forget the World Cup action between Uruguay and the Netherlands — people all across the United Kingdom are tuning their tellies to the news today in hopes of catching a glimpse of what promises to be a far bloodier confrontation between a fugitive and the officers he has promised to kill.

As officers and dogs move in, citizens from around the isle are anticipating a swift and gruesome conclusion to the national drama. Some are even clamoring for it, calling it the best live entertainment they’ve seen in some time.

News Grind paints a vivid picture of the mood:

“I can scarcely wait for the climax,” confirmed Elsie White, 77, as she raced back to her house after picking up some toffees and copies of today’s paper from a local newsagent featuring the blood-soaked face of a police officer allegedly shot by Moat.

“We haven’t had a live event like this to enjoy for quite some time and there’s only old ‘Doctors’ episodes on at this time of day.”

Families have been collecting children from schools and nurseries throughout the day so they could watch together, as expectations reached fever pitch that a violent firearms confrontation was imminent.

Over 800 schools have closed across the country as a result.

Even if that story didn’t ring any alarm bells, what about related news such as ‘Trainee builders must have PhD in Postmodernism’; ‘Heart attack ‘link’ with sheer unadulterated terror’ and ‘“Look at me, I’m a fat bastard,” says proud local man’?

A mistake anyone could have made? Perhaps, in these days of rolling news and slapping on content and the rush to be first with a report – the news grind, if you will.

But even that old chestnut about Americans and irony doesn’t wash – the US is the home of The Onion, the finest satire site in the world, after all.

Maybe it’s just a sign that, in these information-saturated days, even the news is beyond satire?

5 thoughts on “Is the media beyond parody? AOL reports spoof as news

  1. Actually worrying stuff in a way. Our best defence against libel is that we pedal obvious satire. Still reckon we’re on safe ground. And thank goodness we don’t have to be American-proof.

  2. So really, all you need to be able to do to be a “real” journalist is understand how copy/paste works, then. Obviously brains are a drawback and could damage a budding journo’s career.

    Great article on The News Grind, crap article on AOL.

  3. Pingback: Embarassment as AOL breathlessly swallows spoof Raoul Moat report whole | Editors' Blog

  4. Pingback: LIFE IMITATES ART: How a spoof became ‘real news’ | Sound Communication

  5. Pingback: AOL in huge Fail – Angry Mob

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