Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Onion Blows Their Chance To Make Things Right

So Anne Finn, PR Manager for The Onion kept her word, and did respond to my friend Michelle Alswager’s request of helping to sponsor Jessepalooza. I’ll let you read the following and then you can tell me what you think.

On Wed, Nov 10, 2010 at 1:01 PM, Michelle Alswager wrote:

Hi, Anne. Kelly Kunik asked that I forward this email to you. I agree with you that all of your articles are in good fun - this one struck a cord with many of us. Especially so soon after the death of many children due to diabetes as of late - it’s been all over the news, apparently you missed it. One of the deaths was my son. Who loved your newspaper. Please read below - I think it really would go a long way if you got involved in our event.



Forwarded email sent:

Date: Sun, Nov 7, 2010 at 3:52 PM

Subject: Story on children with diabetes dying

To: chicago@theonion.com, madison@theonion.com

Hello. I'm not writing to you to attack you on the story you recently did poking fun at Jay Cutler and by doing so, throwing kids under the bus who have type 1 diabetes. To be honest, my son Jesse LOVED the Onion. He read it all the time and commented on it. Nothing offended him. In fact, I'm not sure this article would offend him - but I can't ask him - because he died on 2/3/10 from type 1 diabetes.

I know you are supposed to be funny - I get it. But there is a very loud community out there letting you have it on facebook & on blogs. While I understand you didn't mean to personally offend such a large community, I agree that making jokes about kids dying is never funny.

I have a suggestion - you can take it or leave it I guess, but I think you could make a big difference in our community by donating to something very personal to many people. Since my son died in February (Jesse Alswager) my family and friends - and complete strangers - have done a lot in his memory. And I am sad to say there are many more kids dying as teens right now with a newly identified "Dead In Bed" Syndrome. Nothing funny about that. Parents are scared. My family has always been a lot of fun and we stay positive. In Jesse' honor each year we hold something called "Jessepalooza". You can see what it was all about last year at www.jessepalooza.org. This year - in 2011- we have added a new component by adding a 30, 60 and 100K metric century cycling event.

If you would consider sponsoring the event on some level, it might calm the community. It’s just an idea to show that you did it in fun, and that a mom who recently lost her son is willing to shake it off.

Thanks for reading,


Michelle Page-Alswager

Here’s the response Michelle got back:

Hi Michelle,

I'm sorry for the loss of your son. While a sponsorship to "Jessepalooza" will not be possible, if you ever decide to host an auction, we would be happy to donate an item to help raise awareness and funds for research and treatment.

Thank you for all the good work that you do,


After receiving the email exchange in my inbox, all I kept thinking was: REALLY? "I'm sorry for the loss of your son? But we can’t sponsor Jessepalooza in anyway shape, or form? Bite me!" FYI: The auction item she refers to is a signed book from The Onion Staff. Which most likely would have been sign by the idiot who wrote the offending post in the first place!


To The Onion staff, you had such a great opportunity to make things right and really help a wonderful cause and make things right.

But instead, YOU BLEW IT!

PS: If you'd like to tell Anne Finn how your feel, feel free to email her at: afinn@theonion.com


Ginger Vieira said...

WOW - her tactful reply to Michele was clearly a "I'm on my way out the door...oh, I'll respond to this email real quick" kind of response.

For such a significant topic, I would expect more from a well-known publication...even The Onion.

Cara said...

Ug. People SUCK! And some people have no concept of kindness and decency.

Günes Yilmaztuerk said...

People would never make fun of children dying of cancer. People would never make fun of children starving. When did death by diabetes become so insignificant that people feel it's worth a few laughs. For the countless families who have lost a child, for the countless families still living with the fear, for the countless families watching their loved one lose eye sight, kidneys, or more - diabetes is not a laughing matter. With more than 24 million Americans suffering from this disease and it killing more than breast cancer and AIDS combined - it makes me so sad for the future of this country and all its citizens that diabetes is simply not taken seriously.

Melinda Vahradian said...

No kidding they blew their chance. Pathetic, really. A letter written from the heart like that at least deserves a thoughtful response, not a 2-second email.

Nicole said...

and I'm sorry but to the ONION "man up" and stop hiding behind your PR rep. After making such a disgusting comment (joke) about children dieing from type 1 diabetes don't you think you may want to grow some balls and take a little time to give "YOUR" response and "YOUR" apologizes to a mother who has lost a son from type 1 diabetes.

What an ass... but I guess we already knew that!

Leighann of D-Mom Blog said...

What's that phrase? Oh yeah:

Adding insult to injury.

Unknown said...


This reply was flat out PATHETIC!


Tsk Tsk, Onion.

Pieces of My Life (Elizabeth) said...

"Will not be possible" why exactly? Because it's against your principals to support a good cause? Because we don't actually think it IS a good cause? Or is it because you're just plain selfish?

Okay, writing a letter. :(

Amy said...

Stunned. Shocked. Sickened at that response. I wasn't an avid reader of the Onion...but occasional. NOT anymore. And I'm spreading the word!

chris said...

As someone who is normally on board with your blogcrusades (HFCS, Bible Cures, etc) I have to say I don't think this is such a big deal. For one thing, the article did not at all connect the deaths to diabetes, it connected them to having to listen to Jay Cutler. It's kind of an important distinction. It also did not contain any untruths or myths about diabetes (like so many "real" articles), and, well, it's the Onion. If they gave a donation to every group they satired/offended, they would have gone bust a long time ago.

I just went to their page to see what else they were running and one of the headlines is "World War II Veteran Allowed to Kill One Last German." So I'd say that the Cutler article falls well within the bounds of their style. I'm sure this comment isn't going to make me any friends, but I think satire in an important tool, and that as soon as we start trying to restrict what is acceptable and what isn't, based on our own personal taste, we're walking a dangerous line. It's fine not to find it funny, but I think it's unreasonable to suggest that they somehow compensate anyone who is offended by their articles.

Alexis Nicole said...

I praise Miichelle for being so brave and writing them in the first place. The editor and the whole Onion is a bunch of douchebags! Sorry but thats how i feel.

Jen said...

you know..Michelle's letter deserved a response that didn't sound like a total brush off..sponsorship or not.

Lora said...

Wow! Even if a donation was not possible, there could have been a little more compassion shown.

One day, something will happen in her life that will make her understand. Until then... let her be clueless.

LaLa said...

I agree with what others have said - that response was just rude. Fine i understand that they cannot sponsor every event and person that they offend but Michelle deserves much more respect that that brief little blurb of an email response.

Clearly Anne Finn doesn't have children. There is no way a mother would be so disrespectful to mom who lost a child. The mere thought of losing a child overwhelms me.

Anne and the Onion can shove it!

Ronnie the diabetic said...

This kinda solidifies my thinking on the Onion, satire or not bad taste is bad taste. I must say I was not totally surprised by their response, as Chris pointed out they are an equal opportunity offender,I suppose to them nothing is taboo, and agreeing to sponsoring an event would be tantamount to admitting they crossed the line in this case.I personally believe they are more afraid of admitting fault because it would have made a bigger story and upstaged that whole nothing is off limits persona, don't get me wrong I definitely believe they crossed the line but getting them to admit that is a whole other matter.

Michelle said...

To Chris's point, I must say, please read that I said even Jesse probably wouldn't have found the article offensive. I gave them an opportunity. The opportunity was for them to maybe say, "Eesh, maybe harsh, maybe genuine in our condolences." Nah, Sorry Chris she's a douche. I'm with Kelly on this one. Douchey answer on her part. Karma.