When the Onion staff writers Mike Gillis and Matt Hunziker began presenting in the Whittenberger Auditorium on Wednesday night, they listed the organization’s notable staff members.
These members included Herman Melville, Stephen King, Dean Koontz, OJ Simpson and Bashar al-Assad. After the joke, Gillis and Hunziker continued to make the students, faculty and Bloomington residents that attended laugh.
Playing off each other’s jokes throughout the talk, Gillis and Hunziker spoke jokingly about the Onion’s history, awards, notable staff and important facts and figures.
They even noted their favorite headlines, which included “NASA Completes 52 Year Mission to Find, Kill God” and “‘You’re My Best Friend,’ Says Obama to Drone That Appears Outside Bedroom Window Every Night.”
The two spoke seriously as they explained their writing process. Onion writers start with their headlines, then use the headline to create drafts which go through rounds of editing.
For the most part, though, the writers don’t avoid any given topic that might be considered controversial.
“There’s really no limit to how insane something could be,” Hunziker said. “No matter how obviously crazy you think something is.
A common reason ideas get shot down is if something seems too real.”
A portion of the lecture which garnered loud laughter from the audience was when the two discussed general reactions to their pieces and moments when the Onion readers mistook their satirical articles as real news.
The Onion ran an op-ed about Donald Trump titled, “When You’re Feeling Low, Just Remember I’ll Be Dead In About 15 Or 20 Years,” and Gillis read the response from Trump’s special counsel to the crowd.
“This article is an absolutely disgusting piece that lacks any place in journalism, even in your Onion,” he read, causing the audience to erupt in a large roar.
Freshman Kenlynn Albright said she came to gain insight on the Onion writer’s approach to journalism but also because she likes the Onion’s political coverage.
“All the political stuff usually makes me angry, but the Onion’s coverage makes me feel better,” she said.
After their presentation, the two opened up the dialogue for a question-and-answer portion in which the audience asked about everything from more details about their writing process to how the writers became involved with the Onion.
One man even asked if the writers thought what they were doing was like authentic journalism.
“It’s somewhere in between,” Hunziker said. “We’re trying to find salient takes on real world events. It is the same sort of thing as drafting an article.”
Freshman Olivia Gennaro said one of the main reasons she came to the event was because she saw was curious about the Onion writers’ process.
“I like that it’s completely satirical, even the weather,” she said.
Connecting students to entertaining and offering students insight into the Onion’s writing process was part of the reason the Union Board chose to offer this event, said Beth Nethery, Union Board director of performance and entertainment..
“Union Board has been trying lately to bring both relevant, yet still entertaining lectures and events to campus,” she said. “With election season coming up and so else much going on in the world at the time, and with the Onion being so popular, especially among our age, it is a really cool lecture to bring to students.”
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