The Onion

the onion

The Onion is an American news satire organization. It is a newspaper and a website featuring satirical articles reporting on international, national, and local news, in addition to a non-satirical entertainment section known as The A.V. Club (which features interviews and reviews of various newly released media, as well as other weekly features). Since 2007, the organization has been publishing satirical news audios and videos online, as the ‘Onion News Network.’

The Onion’s articles comment on current events, both real and fictional. It parodies such traditional newspaper features as editorials, man-on-the-street interviews, and stock quotes on a traditional newspaper layout with an AP-style editorial voice. Much of its humor depends on presenting everyday events as newsworthy and by playing on commonly used phrases, as in the headline ‘Drugs Win Drug War.’

Tim Keck and Christopher Johnson, juniors at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, founded ‘The Onion’ there in 1988. Reportedly, it was Chris Johnson’s uncle, Wm. Nels Johnson, who came up with the idea to name the paper ‘The Onion.’ ‘People always ask questions about where the name ‘The Onion’ came from, and, when I recently asked Tim Keck, who was one of the founders, he told me…literally that his uncle said he should call it ‘The Onion’ when he saw him and Chris Johnson eating an onion sandwich. They had literally just cut up the onion and put it on bread.’ According to former Editorial Manager, Chet Clem, their food budget was so low when they started the paper that they were down to white bread and onions. Officially, the paper purports to be over 250 years old, having originally published in the mid 18th century. It was named the ‘Mercantile Onion’ because those were the only two English words the paper’s immigrant founder, Friedrich Siegfried Zweibel, knew at the time. (Zwiebel is German for ‘onion’).

The newspaper’s motto was originally ‘Tu Stultus Es’ (Latin for ‘You are stupid’). In 1896 Zweibel’s 20-year-old grandson, T. Herman Zweibel became editor, a position he supposedly holds to this day despite being nearly 200 years old and largely senile. For much of the 20th century the paper was highly reactionary and parodied the yellow journalism and sensationalism prevalent in print media during the early part of the century. It violently opposed every social reform the century brought forward, from women’s suffrage to married characters sleeping together in the same bed on television. T. Herman Zweibel penned a weekly commentary until 2000, when he was rocketed into space toward the Andromeda galaxy, ostensibly leaving ‘The Onion’ in the joint control of Bernard Baruch and Aunt Jemima.

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