Tuesday, July 25, 2006

The media fails to get it, once again

When you have even a modicum of fame, it's important to realize that not everyone has a well-developed sense of humor or irony. Case in point: former Jeopardy UberMensch Ken Jennings has a web site and blog. On July 19 he posted an entry supposedly taking Jeopardy to task for being stuffy and boring. Anyone with two neurons to rub together saw it as a friendly joke. The New York Post was either a neuron short and mistook it or they are deliberately trying to stir up trouble, reporting it as real. And then Fox got into the act, reporting on the Post story. Now Ken's getting posts on his message board about how "ungreatful" [sic, I think it's like "double plus ungood" in newspeak] he is. Mr. Jennings seems perplexed by this:

"I wonder at what level the sarcasm-meters broke. Like, did Michael Starr know it was a humor piece, but his piece fooled Fox News into thinking it wasn't? Or did Fox News know but fool the drive-time deejays? Or did the deejays know as well, but fool their dumber listeners?"

The cynically minded might suspect that it's all a publicity stunt for his upcoming book. But I think it more likely that Jennings, for all his knowledge, has simply fallen afoul of the irony-impaired.

(A tip of the hat to Muskrat for the scoop.)

[Edit] This is unbelievable: CNN has jumped on the bandwagon. While CNN at least acknowledges that Jennings has said this is a "humor piece", they still tried to get a comment from the folks at Jeopardy. CNN may not be as irony-impaired as the Post, but they appear to have no compunctions about running the story. If it's tongue in cheek, it really doesn't deserve reporting on CNN; if it's serious, it's just fanning the flames of a manufactured controversy. The tone of the CNN article is so deliberately balanced that clearly they're trying to have it both ways - benefiting from the rumor of controversy while maintaining a veneer of plausible deniability - "we knew it was a joke, see?" I know a few good humor pieces, just as well written as Mr. Jennings' entry - care to share the national exposure?
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Satire pervades the web, seeping into mailboxes and mainstream news like a spilled cup of coffee. It stains and it won't go away.

The Bitter Cup is a collaborative blog for members of HumorFeed, a collaborative of satire and humor sites that has been making trouble since 2003.