Reporters grieve death of facts by proffering facts, opinions on its legacy

Chicago Tribune | Jim Romenesko | AJR

Rex Huppke's obituary for facts (which died "from injuries suffered last week when Florida Republican Rep. Allen West steadfastly declared that as many as 81 of his fellow members of the U.S. House of Representatives are communists") blew a giant hole in the Internet after the Chicago Tribune published it Thursday. It's been tweeted nearly 2,000 times, has been shared more than 8,000 times on Facebook and has been emailed and IM'd to me with the message "Didja see this????" 26 times. It seems only right to fete it with some meta-facts:

• Huppke tells Jim Romenesko he researched the column by interviewing Mary Poovey at New York University and Gary Alan Fine at Northwestern. Poovey "provided the biographical details necessary for the obituary," he tells Romenesko, and he portrayed Fine "as so shocked by the death of facts that he was unwilling to accept it" and told both it would be a satirical piece.

• It's funny because it's (arguably) true: "The Chicago Tribune piece is funny as hell. But the reality it reflects about the state of political debate in this country is nothing short of tragic," Rem Rieder writes in AJR.

• The op-ed has cost the business of journalism hundreds of dollars in productivity. Somewhere, smoke is rising over a city, and the next David Simon is too busy tweeting about this brilliant piece of writing to bemoan that there's no one available to cover the fire.

  • Andrew Beaujon

    Andrew Beaujon reported on the media for Poynter from 2012 to 2015. He was previously arts editor at and managing editor of Washington City Paper. He's the author of the 2006 book "Body Piercing Saved My Life," about Christian rock and evangelical Christian culture.


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