At a certain point, the satirical newspaper The Onion, became so well known that only someone who was completely disconnected from the real world could mistake its stories for actual news.
Case in point is when The Onion named North Korean leader Kim Jong Un as their "Sexiest Man Alive."
When the Chinese and North Korean state run media found the story, they reported as fact. Government controlled media seemed to take great pride in the idea that a legitimate, major Western news organization had become infatuated with North Korea's chubby, young dictator.
We laugh at this failure of the communists to understand and identify satirical news, pieces. But we shouldn't laugh too hard. Some Americans have started falling for this type of charade as well.
In recent months, several major American news organizations have failed to do their homework and have reported stories that were intended to be comedic as though they were breaking news.
After Sarah Palin left her job as a pundit on Fox News, Suzi Parker, a columnist for the Washington Post, used a satirical website called The Daily Currant (Get it? Current/Currant) as her source for a story about Palin becoming a contributor for Al Jezeera.
Conservatives laughed at the screw up as more evidence that the MSM is so gung ho to attack conservatives that, in their excitement, they often abandon all journalistic standards.
But, over the weekend, several outlets ran with a story from the very same site. This one, announcing that far left New York Times columnist, Paul Krugman, had declared bankruptcy.
The Boston Globe was one of them. While, on the conservative side, Breitbart.com fell for the joke and is now being pilloried by the usual left wing suspects, including Paul Krugman himself. (Of course, Krugman left out the fact that the liberal Boston globe had reported the story as well, saving his mockery exclusively for Breitbart.)
In this age of fast-paced Internet news, it can sometimes be difficult to differentiate between a hard news site and a comedy site or opinion blog.
To the untrained eye, The Daily Currant LOOKS like a legit news site. Nowhere on the masthead does it say that it's satirical. Only when a visitor scrolls to the bottom of the page and clicks on the "About" link, do you learn that the stories are contrived. The page reads
"Our stories are purely fictional. However they are meant to address real-world issues through satire and often refer and link to real events happening in the world."
The scary thing is, that if trained journalists are unable to tell the difference , then imagine how many average Americans could potentially be suckered into taking the site seriously.
Someone who is not as well versed in how to verify a news story could easily share a story on Facebook or Twitter how scientists have discovered that vegetarianism is more dangerous than smoking.
Obviously, there's no excuse for professional journalists to print bogus information taken from a humor site. But in an era where an increasing number of people get their news delivered to them by people they know on social media networks, those who know better must be on the lookout, so that their friends and family don't start spreading bad information to a susceptible public.