“I find it ironic that I have to talk about journalism, because I don’t know jack shit about journalism…never studied it”
This is the first thing that Scott Dikkers said to his audience of 100+ at the Burleigh Media Lecture, and to be honest, it perfectly encapsulates his entire story of becoming the founder of The Onion, a newspaper that delivers fake news.
When Dikkers bought The Onion for a whopping $3,000, he became the sole responsibility for filling 8-12 pages of news a week, which, for anyone, is an extremely challenging task to take on. Luckily, Dikkers had plenty of people volunteering to work for Dikkers for free, and eventually, they started getting paid $5/week to create one article each week.
Dikkers didn’t really have much of a strategy when it came to hiring writers. As he explained, “we didn’t search high and low, we just searched low,” and low is exactly what he got. Majority of his staff came in high, drunk, on anti-depressants, or all of the above. Little did he know that over time, these fake news writers would become some of the best writers in the country. The Onion writers have won more awards than the New York Times, and eventually went on to win a plethora of Emmy’s.
As one could only imagine, Dikkers ran into a variety of ethical dilemmas; the phrase “I’m going to sue you out of existence” became a dear friend to Dikkers. That phrase and the variety of other threats that he received never scared him, though.
As time went on, Dikkers became more confident in his writers, and The Onion really began settling into its own voice. Because the writers were always striving to make one issue better than the next, they settled on the fact that they wanted The Onion to be a serious, yet funny AP parody style newspaper with a satirical voice. After The Onion settled into its own identity as a “news source,” the fake news world really took off.
With the rise of fake news sources, comes the rise of social media presence. Because more and more people depending on the Internet and social media to gather their news, our society becomes very easily overwhelmed and convinced by what we read.
Dikker explains that we are easily convinced to believe everything that we hear because “we all agree with information that is agreeing with our own bias…we like things that aren’t true, we almost prefer them.” Now, who can’t agree with that?