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And now the fake news ...

Parodies of Internet news sites

August 20, 1997
Web posted at: 5:14 p.m. EDT (2114 GMT)

From CNN Interactive Writer Wayne Drash

(CNN) -- A breaking news bulletin flashes across the computer screen: "TV meteorologists conclude the heat wave is being caused by excessive heat," it reads. Another Web site has a banner proclaiming: The world's 975 million Muslims have announced plans to "lighten up a bit."

While millions of readers read online news daily, hundreds of news-parody Web sites are popping up all over cyberspace. Many simply offer a quick satirical glimpse at recent events. Others dedicate full-blown articles to false stories, often attributing fabricated quotes to well-known people.

One clever site mocked a CNN Interactive article on Mars with a story saying that weird objects were seen on the red planet. Photographs showed Martians pressed against Pathfinder's camera. NASA scientists called it the damnedest thing they'd ever seen. The page layout starkly resembled ours, except the Interactive logo was facing the wrong way.

Such sites can offer relief from the depressing news reported by the media. And for their part, the sites typically run a disclaimer stating they are not real news.

But some online journalists squawk, saying the sites further cripple their efforts to gain credibility among print and TV peers. Others unleash loud guffaws and immediately crank out e-mails to share the URLs with friends in the industry.

The Onion graphic

Among the most detailed news-parody sites is The Onion, (www.theonion.com) which bills itself as "Number one in news." (It also is intended for people over the age of 18). The site is updated weekly with in-depth articles about ... nothing, really.

One article reports that members of the National Education Association are appalled at the poor grammar used in teen-suicide notes. Another claims that President Clinton has declared a weeklong national holiday to get the national sh-t together. And yet another says the world's Muslims plan to chill out -- "the most significant Islamic ideological pronouncement since a 732 A.D. pledge to drive the Hebrews into the sea," the site says.

Skewpoint on the News (http://bobsfridge.com/skew.htm) skewers the news in short, quirky blurbs. It's motto: "Breaking the news beyond repair."

Perusing the site, one quickly discovers that cosmonauts aboard space station Mir are on strike and have asked U.S. Labor Secretary Alexis Herman to redouble her efforts in getting better pay and working conditions for those aboard the aging spacecraft. Another blurb says United Parcel Service is working to replace its fleet of trucks with giant versions of the Mars' Sojourner rover.

Other sites mock main media outlets. Stale, (www.stale.com) makes fun of Microsoft's online magazine, Slate. Others, like CNNot, (http://www.guerrilla.com/cnn/) report fictionalized articles beneath old CNN Interactive logos, including one that reports the FDA has determined that secondhand ... uh, well think of a word that rhymes with darts ... are a health hazard.

 
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