Not The Onion About The Onion of the Day: A story published by The Onion about a new parent education study attributed to the California Parenting Institute of Santa Rosa resulted in major headaches for the 33-year-old nonprofit when many parents took the satirical publication seriously.
According to the The Onion, CPI had determined that there wasn’t a single style of parenting that didn’t cause children to become “profoundly unhappy adults.” All parenting methods were equally successful at yielding grown ups who were bitter, isolated and utterly “unprepared to contend with life’s difficulties.”
The institute’s executive director, Robin Bowen, said she had a hearty chuckle when the article was brought to her attention by her daughter. But the laughter stopped as soon as she reached the office.
Bowen and others spent the day fielding calls from parents worried that there was really nothing they could do to raise their children right. “It’s obviously not OK to list our agency,” said CPI director of marketing and development Wendy Hilberman, “even in satire.”
CPI was eventually forced to release press statement denying the existence of the study and dismissing its results. “The falsified study quoted in The Onion states that all parenting styles lead to the same outcome — unhappy, miserable adults,” CPI says in its statement. “We have been around a long time because we know that parent education does work.”
The Onion responded with a comment saying this wasn’t the first time an article they published was mistaken for hard news.
Sonoma State University communications studies professor Jonah Raskin says people should be more skeptical of content their read online. “If you go online, you will find all kinds of things that are false and misleading about products and individuals,” he said. “If anyone takes The Onion seriously, they are sadly misunderstanding The Onion.”