StarWipe is the latest layer in the Onion's field


Celebrity gossip is getting The Onion treatment.

Introducing StarWipe, the latest in the media company's satire of some of the most shameless and begging-to-be-mocked elements of digital culture.

First came Clickhole, The Onion's answer to the viral clickbait that likely floods your Facebook feed. Last month marked the introduction of Edge, a web series that skewers the type of in-your-face investigative journalism associated with Vice.

And now there's StarWipe, which launched last week with a mission to hold a mirror up to the flimsy and thinly sourced reporting that typifies much of entertainment coverage.

Starwipe, which draws its name from a TV transition technique popular in the 1980s, is headed up by Sean O'Neal, a senior editor at the Onion-owned A.V. Club, which provides serious coverage of pop culture.

O'Neal, 37, has been with the A.V. Club since 2006. He said the idea for StarWipe originated about a year ago when he felt a bit guilty for writing about Justin Bieber's latest antics. StarWipe, O'Neal said, allows him to report on those types of stories while also "quarantining" them from The A.V. Club.

"I thought we could have some fun with it," O'Neal told CNNMoney.

Like The Onion and Clickhole, StarWipe draws its jokes from a vast pool of contributors and freelancers. The rest comes from its staff of five -- three women, two men -- who meet daily to wade through the latest headlines out of Hollywood.

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That's what distinguishes it from most of The Onion's stable of satire. StarWipe isn't concocting stories about Beanie Babies filled with spider eggs. Its material plays off actual events before being taken to an extreme.

StarWipe also links to original sources, making it blend in with the aggregation-heavy publications that it satirizes. A listicle published last week, "Here Are Some Celebrities Looking Sad, Which We'll Just Assume Is About The Death Of Yogi Berra," was a send-up of the ubiquitous online practice of cramming trending topics into headlines purely for clicks.

"So can you really blame us for wanting to hastily assemble a list of photos and slap Yogi Berra's name in the headline so it shows up with all the other legitimate obituaries about him? It's not like we're the only ones doing it," the author wrote. The story linked to Time Magazine's own listicle of celebrity reactions to the New York Yankee legend's death.

"Every story we aggregate is already reported on by another source," O'Neal said. "There are several layers of artifice in celebrity reporting. Our goal is to always point out this artifice, that we're being self-aware."

StarWipe will inevitably draw comparisons to Clickhole, which has been met with considerable acclaim since it debuted last year.

And like Clickhole, which drew the ire of the actor Russell Crowe and CNN's own Anderson Cooper when it attributed farcical quotes to them, StarWipe has already managed to annoy its subjects.

O'Neal said that a tweet last week from the site's account irritated the actor Joe Manganiello.

But unlike Clickhole, StarWipe won't be putting any words in celebrities' mouths. O'Neal says there's no need.

"We don't want to confuse the reader with actual quotes that are dumb enough on their own," he said.


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