The Onion Obliterates CNN’s Obsessive Miley Cyrus Coverage, Exposes Bigger Issues

onion-cnnIn quite possibly one of the greatest articles I have ever read, The Onion not only destroyed CNN’s ridiculous coverage of the VMA’s and whatever Miley Cyrus did on stage (I still don’t know what she actually did—because I simply don’t care), they also went after the real cause of the almost complete disappearance of quality journalism.

While many stories on The Onion are meant for pure entertainment, there are a few which mock real-life events.  This article mocked CNN.com’s managing editor, Meredith Artley, for the website’s choice to make Miley Cyrus the “Top Story” on CNN this morning.

Of course Ms. Artley never wrote the article, as she clarified on Twitter (apparently there are still people on the Internet who don’t know The Onion is satire).  But she failed to make any mention of or respond to the very real point the article made, a point I’ve been talking about for years — quality journalism is dying and we’re the ones killing it.

See, while it’s easy to complain about the media (it’s probably second right behind the government), we fail to realize that the media and what they report on is a direct reflection of all of us.

Now I know what some of you are saying, “Well, I don’t read trash stories, I want good news reporting and quality journalism.”  Well, if that is true, you’re sadly becoming the exception rather than the rule.  But you mean to tell me you’ve never clicked on one of the many stories I see on media sites about “Man Exposes Himself at Taco Stand” or “Butt Implants Are Newest Rage for Men” (yes, this was actually a headline today at the Huffington Post).

What about “Watch This Video of the Most Adorable Kitten Ever”?

Now I’m not saying there’s something wrong with enjoying a guilty pleasure or two, but these trash stories such as Miley Cyrus don’t suddenly become “Top Stories” because CNN wants them to be the headline for the day.

They’re the “Top Stories” because millions of people will click on that garbage instead of reading about possible chemical weapons being used in Syria or actually researching facts about the Affordable Care Act.

My favorite part from The Onion article went into great detail about why media outlets, such as CNN, would push Miley Cyrus and her outlandish behavior so heavily:

But boy oh boy did it get us some web traffic. Which is why I, Meredith Artley, managing editor of CNN.com, put the story in our top spot. Those of us watching on Google Analytics saw the number of homepage visits skyrocket the second we put up that salacious image of Miley Cyrus dancing half nude on the VMA stage. But here’s where it gets great: We don’t just do a top story on the VMA performance and call it a day. No, no. We also throw in a slideshow called “Evolution of Miley,” which, for those of you who don’t know, is just a way for you to mindlessly click through 13 more photos of Miley Cyrus. And if we get 500,000 of you to do that, well, 500,000 multiplied by 13 means we can get 6.5 million page views on that slideshow alone. Throw in another slideshow titled “6 ‘don’t miss’ VMA moments,” and it’s starting to look like a pretty goddamned good Monday, numbers-wise. Also, there are two videos—one of the event and then some bullshit two-minute clip featuring our “entertainment experts” talking about the performance.

Side note: Advertisers, along with you idiots, love videos. Another side note: The Miley Cyrus story was in the same top spot we used for our 9/11 coverage.

Now, let’s get back to why we put the story in the most coveted spot on our website, thereby saying, essentially, that Miley Cyrus’ suggestive dancing is the most important thing going on in the world right now. If you clicked on the story, and all the slideshows, and all the other VMA coverage, that means you’ve probably been on CNN.com for more than seven minutes, which lowers our overall bounce rate. Do you know what that is? Sorry for getting a little technical here. The bounce rate is the percentage of visitors to a particular website who navigate away from the site after viewing only one page. If we can keep that bounce rate low, and show companies that people don’t just go to CNN.com but stay there, then we can go to Ford or McDonald’s or Samsonite or whatever big company you can think of and ask for the big bucks.

Simply fantastic, because it’s 100% true.

See, consumers are the reason why the media sucks so badly these days.  Sure, millions of us will complain about the quality of journalism and how it’s trash compared to generations past, but guess what — they shape their stories based upon what we click, read or tune in to.

Why do you think there are countless versions of the same reality show?  How many more “Survivor” shows do we need?  Isn’t American Idol enough to find the next singer that will never be famous?  And do you really think The Bachelor isn’t completely staged?  Hell, you might as well just watch the WWE and pretend that it’s real.

And don’t even get me started on shows like Toddlers and Tiara’s or Dance Mom’s — those parents should be locked up and the show’s producers charged with exploiting children.

It’s all about revenue — period.

The same goes for our government.  We whine and complain as if we have no control over what our government looks like, except we elect our politicians much in the same way we determine the quality of our journalism.

If an article on Syria would get 500,000 shares or an in-depth look at Climate Change would get another 200,000 you’d see more time and money put into stories such at those.  But trust me, being in this business, those articles will get a small fraction of what borderline trash news stories will get.

But what this Onion article did is lay out exactly what I, and others who believe like I do, have been saying for a while now.  Quality journalism is dying and it’s the dependency on advertisement revenue that’s killing it.

However, the revenue generated from these ads comes from “clicks” or “views” — which come from all of us.

So in the end, who’s really to blame?  CNN for their ridiculous coverage of a completely meaningless event, or the millions upon millions who clicked every single piece of trash journalism that appeared on their website?

I’m sorry to say, but I can’t really blame CNN — they were just giving most of us exactly what they knew we’d click.

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Allen Clifton is a native Texan who now lives in the Austin area. He has a degree in Political Science from Sam Houston State University. Allen is a co-founder of Forward Progressives and creator of the popular Right Off A Cliff column and Facebook page. Be sure to follow Allen on both Twitter and Facebook. Have feedback, inquiries, criticism or hate mail? You can email him as well.


Facebook comments

  • LMB

    Though I totally agree most people focus on unimportant “news” stories too often leaving the real news covered in dust, I can understand why. After a long, stressful day at work and dealing with the everyday stresses of life, bills, family, etc. the last thing you want to do is turn the TV on or log onto to the internet to read depressing stories about shootings, human or animal suffering, wars, or economic woes. I know I don’t. I try to keep up with what’s going on, I want to be informed and I watch regular news two to three days a week, but one can only take so much bad news and sometimes watching something like Miley Cyrus twerking with Robin Thicke is what you need so you can disconnect and just be free of real problems for just a moment.

    • Evie Rodriguez

      People feel tired, stressed, and discouraged. I think people feel like they have no control about things that matter and that is why they deal with this bs. It is exhausting being aware of all the issues all the time. There comes a point in time where you have to shut it off to stay sane.

    • DMH

      Gay. More Distractions accepted for the people who only want to deal with what they can only handle. The affairs that revolve around them in their Life ONLY.

      • nwbennu

        I agree with your synopsis. The negative vote is for your crappy choice of disparaging the gay community to try to make some kind of point. Very immature and totally discredited your opinion as having validity.

      • raggedcompany

        I agree with nwbennu. Gay is not a synonym for stupid.

      • growupamerica

        Well It’s not a synonym for homosexual either. It is a derogitory comment to describe a homosexual. Actually means happy, or full of joy. So you both are using it wrong.

      • raggedcompany

        It’s only people like nwbennu who use it to describe something they don’t like or disagree with who are using it in a derogatory fashion.

    • Daniel Ferreira

      But the point is, if you want soft, mindless news, there are tons of entertainment channels for that… News channels have a degree of responsibility to cover NEWS. If every major news outlet becomes TMZ (which is where journalism seems to be going), where do we turn to find out what’s going on in the world, that directly impacts us (like Syria, and another middle east war we are really close to getting involved in). If CNN wants to be billed as a news channel, then it has a responsibility to cover news. Otherwise, call yourself a tabloid news channel.

    • suburbancuurmudgeon

      I may be tired and stressed but the last thing I want to do is look at Miley Cyrus acting like a slut for a large amount of money.

      • shutterbird13

        How exactly does one “act like a slut”? Please, enlighten.

      • suburbancuurmudgeon

        Watch the video. Do women normally shake their butts like they want to get laid or pretend to be masturbating in public? Or better yet, ask yourself how your mother would feel about witnessing such behavior in public. And I’m not forgiving of male rap “artists” acting in a similar manner.

    • Mel Sharples

      The Opiate of the masses.

  • Teressa BluesBabe Brewer

    Bullshit. You put it before them, they’ll click it!

  • strayaway

    Well done Onion! “Let them eat cake”. We don’t need to hear about US and Russian war ships rushing toward Syria. All these wars are alike after awhile. BOring.

  • Scott Jones

    I always wonder what some of the big historical events would be like if covered in today’s news market. How would the Leopold and Loeb trial be received by someone like Nancy Grace? The Sixteenth Baptist Church bombing be treated by Fox News? The Ludlow Massacre be treated by the news outlets? We live in a tabloid society and we love our tabloid news even though we say we don’t. We love to hear the juicy gossip and see the scandalous pictures. We love to see the train wreck pure and simple.

  • Mary G.

    Extremely proud to say that I have NOT clicked on ANY CNN coverage of MC. What an idiotic thing for “news” to cover.

  • Katie Svensen

    I agree 100%. However, I’m curious as to why you used an apostrophe in the plural “tiaras” & “moms,” yet left them out from all the other plural words in your article. If you’re going to use them incorrectly, at least be consistent. 😉

    • Julio

      Again, shit no one cares about, you could have at least left three lines of something productive to add to the argument…

      • shutterbird13

        Well, the article is about the deterioration of quality journalism, so I believe Ms. Svensen’s critique fits perfectly.

  • Pawl Von Sky Walker

    It looks like CNN got the message.. at least somewhat. Now, Syria is the main headline.

  • jennifer

    Well – ashamed to say that I did click on coverage og Miley. Yep – Major Curious here. Had to know what all the talk was about. Thank you so much for this article. It is an eye-opener, and I will be a better consumer of articles because of it.

    • Bookwench

      I agree with Jennifer. I’m not a major reader of the more salacious articles, but do admit to being occasionally tempted. This piece has made me more aware of how I’m contributing to the degrading standards of journalism. I’m going to be much more circumspect in the future

    • LL11

      Yeah, somewhat embarrassed I did, too. Not because I care about Miley Cyrus, the VMA, or the article in general, but I wanted to know what twerking was. Sadly, they didn’t explain it so I had to go google it. I wish I hadn’t, I could have happily died not knowing about this stupid “dance”. But if they are going to provide a so-called ‘news’ article, you’d think they could cover that information :)

  • Commonsenseloss

    And this in itself was news? Everyone in the world already knows Americans are quite stupid and easily swayed by a little flash and bling to distract them from anything important….heck even their political system works this way… So is it any surprise to see that Millions of Subintelligent Americans go directly to these “adverts”? That’s like saying Lions ignore the lame gazelles for the Alphas…yeah tell me another one. Once and maybe if…the American population wakes up to actual reality, they will most likely find a world that has passed them by….having had America on autopilot so long has numbed/dumbed the population into oblivious apathy. Kudos to all of you!

  • Thomas Young

    Who’s Miley Cyrus?

  • raggedcompany

    The only coverage I saw about Miley Cyrus was from social media, the jokes on Tumblr and the ~outrage~ on Facebook were far more entertaining than any news article about it could ever be. Probably more entertaining than watching the VMAs altogether. I’m not sure how social media ads and click counts affect the news stations but at least I can say I didn’t click on an actual news article about it.
    My favorite part of all this is that people act as though it’s the first time a female pop star has had a ridiculous performance at the VMAs.

  • robingee

    Samsonite. Heh!

  • remccainjr

    Many years ago I watched some CNN coverage and thought CNN stood for ‘Communist News Network’. You mean this is an American-based news organization?

  • mark

    The other factor is, when you buy a newspaper, you vote for the content as a whole. There is no differentiation. The editor really does not know what you picked it up for; hard news, society, entertainment news, sports, crossword, etc.

    With the internet, they get stats for each and every individual page and click, and tremendous tools to perform analyrltics on all that click/stay/bounce data.

    Real journalism is a standing investment in investigative and writing talent, so journalists can make a real living, while each assignment is a gamble on whether a high-draw story will come out of it. You need to pay for a bunch of so-so to have all your assets in place for the big win.

    When your analytics can tell you exactly which piece pays off and which lose, you tend to go for the numbers and only provide the porn and cat videos avaryone clicks on, journalism is lost.

  • suburbancuurmudgeon

    Quality journalism died when Walter Cronkite retired.

  • Kraftwerk

    I find it redundant that you choose NOT to cover salacious news stories. Why the hell do you think people are “interested” in Syria or climate change or Affordable Care acts? BORING! Give us what we REALLY want. Miley shaking her ass, Make it rain Chicken videos, Majela’s “QOV” videos. You assume too much of the AMERICAN public. Not all of us want to know about stupid situations in Syria where grown ass men are blowing themselves up for no good reason. THERE IS NOTHING WE CAN DO FOR THESE PEOPLE. WAKE UP! Its like watching Salo. Exploit those peoples miseries for the sake of you having “relevant” news to talk about. If they want to kill themselves, let them. But stop talking about it and showing us graphic images of the violence. Thats THEIR dilemmas, THEIR problems.

    • saturnx311

      Oh damn… Kraftwerk please speak for yourself, OK? There is a LOT of us that are passionate about the idea of wanting to pass a country to our children that is better, and that elects (really elects– not the fraud we have going on now!) a government we are proud to have serving us– a government that IS us, and not the disconnected bunch of royalty screwing us over now….eh I’m too tired to write, and thank you…

  • Gaijinman

    the moral decay and social meltdown observed, however climate alarmists might feel about it… actually is part of the story. Whereas I’m no fan of CNN nor any of the other government-media-complex favorites, the train wreck is certainly something that ordinary folks will discuss… some intelligently, and others will of course check their brains at the door like those trying to see good in the ironically named “Affordable Care Act”, or that buy-in to the major hoaxes of Kerry and Al Gore with the foolish misinterpretations of the news on Syria and the great “climate-change” (previously known as “global warming” Hoax.

  • Gaijinman

    the moral decay and social meltdown observed, however climate alarmists might feel about it… actually is part of the story. Whereas I’m no fan of CNN nor any of the other government-media-complex favorites, the train wreck is certainly something that ordinary folks will discuss… some intelligently, and others will of course check their brains at the door like those trying to see good in the ironically named “Affordable Care Act”, or that buy-in to the major hoaxes of Kerry and Al Gore with the foolish misinterpretations of the news on Syria and the great “climate-change” (previously known as “global warming”) Hoax.

  • Gaijinman

    the moral decay and social meltdown observed, however climate alarmists might feel about it… actually is part of the story. Whereas I’m no fan of CNN nor any of the other government-media-complex favorites, the train wreck is certainly something that ordinary folks will discuss… some intelligently, and others will of course check their brains at the door like those trying to see good in the ironically named “Affordable Care Act”, or that buy-in to the major lies of Kerry and Al Gore with the foolish misinterpretations of the news on Syria and the great “climate-change” (previously known as “global warming”) Hoax.

  • just a note



    • saturnx311

      Right! How many time’s do we have to say that? Geez

      • saturnx311

        The other one I hate, and see over and over from seemingly qualified writers is the use of the term “it’s”.
        Again: the word “its” possessive NEVER has an apostrophe!!
        As in “The cat licked its paw”, Or “The country has lost its way.” But people always spell it with an apostrophe. As in “The cat licked it’s paw”, Or “The country has lost it’s way.” ??? Grrrrr
        The word “it’s” means “it is” or “it has”. Nothing else!

      • Bill Maughan

        …and then their (kidding) is the word there or their…or they’re, all three are often misused. I find that enervating, and ‘it’s’ a blatant sign of ignorance.

  • John

    Giggle and right in the middle of this is a add for WOW lmfao

  • You never know

    I’m honestly just tired of our country getting into other peoples problems. That’s one of the reasons I don’t click on those articles.

  • Hammer

    Rather than get upset by the preponderance of schlock journalism, which has been with us since the advent of mass newspapers in the 1800s, I think it’s okay to celebrate and enjoy the small amount of quality stuff that still goes on.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001411188910 Lucreza Borgia

    John Stewart called CNN a bunch of hacks years ago.