Participatory Media Culture and a cycle of News.


Years ago, there was a little newspaper that was published for free up in Milwaukee. It was entirely satirical in nature and it only came out once a month or so, but every time I passed through the state, I would try to make it to Milwaukee so I could get the newest edition out of their bins.

That little newspaper eventually started posting all of their stories online, and people, both regular consumers and respected news agencies would occasionally get confused by their presentations and post them as real. These days, pretty much everyone knows to check the URL of a story they are sharing on facebook or twitter, and I very seldom see articles from The Onion’s main site reblogged as factual news. They do have a real culture reporting division, and these days they do actual stories about real news events with made up community comments, so they are occasionally reblogged as actual news when they are really actual news.

In the last few weeks, I have seen something interesting. Various people I know, including professional writers and newspaper reporters have been falling prey to the same mistake when they see posts from a new online satirical paper, They do an excellent job making their articles look like straight reporting, especially in the crucial first paragraph. The latest one making the rounds is about Bill Nye. Until it shifted into strings of profanity, it looked very much like a quote from Bill Nye, who has several times refused to say the standard “there are really two ways we can look at this” equivocation when faced with people claiming that contrafactuals are absolutely true.

The fact that there are whole genres devoted to creating false news stories and “found media” storytelling makes it very easy for participatory media to fall into this hole. As long as the social structure of your media sharing methods have a strong fact checking and error correction ethos, that isn’t too bad, but I personally have many acquaitences who aren’t even willing to check Snopes before posting a 15 year old chain letter.


Michael phillips



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