Onion Staff Reluctant To Shed New York State Of Mind

By Staff in News on Apr 1, 2012 4:00PM

2012_4_1_onion.png BREAKING: New Yorkers are kind of @$$holes about being New Yorkers
BREAKING: Midwesterners funny, cheap
BREAKING: Chicagoans enjoy life, New Yorkers are jerks about it
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Midwesterners just wanna have fun!

“This is New York, and well, everywhere else is everywhere else,” wrote Mediabistro of the news that The Onion would soon be officially, if somewhat reluctantly, consolidating its editorial offices in Chicago. The sentiment was mirrored last week in the refusal of 11 out of 16 full-time Onion staffers who, according to The Atlantic Wire, have forsaken their jobs in favor of staying in New York City.

If New Yorkers are really good at one thing, it’s underestimating just how much they are overspending on everything from real estate to lattes. The Onion COO Mike McAvoy stressed the financial necessity of the move, telling The Atlantic, "If you consider having to pay for two facilities, two kitchens, two insurance policies and two Internet connections—putting everyone in one place ends up saving a significant amount of money." If the cost of two wi-fi accounts is a significant cause of stress, one can imagine that the free print humor weekly is suffering from the same industrial malaise as the rest of its more straight-laced journalistic brethren.

“Nothing against Chicago. I think it's a great town,” one reluctant staffer told The Wire, “But we're here in the center of everything and it's still a challenge to find good people.” As an adopted Chicagoan who hasn’t missed the tri-state area since the day she left, I have to admit that my immediate response to this particular line was bilious in nature. The silver lining, however, is the enormous potential for Chicago’s young comedians and comic writers. As one young Second City disciple, 24-year old Josh Nalven, said on hearing the news, “One man’s trash is my 401k and full dental.”

So perhaps the Midwest won’t turn out be the flat, humorless expanse these New Yorkers expect it to be. We do owe some sympathy to the Onion’s writers, already struggling to feel secure in their careers, at being told unceremoniously to pack their bags. Still, that second-best “Midwest Mentality” has been a hot topic of late. Last week, Chicago Magazine’s Whet Moser brought to our attention the “coastal” tech blog Pando Daily’s exploration of this phenomenon. Moser argues that while it’s tempting to explain a city’s industry by exploring the character of its people (“ a number of coastal transplants complained that people here got married too soon”), history proves that capital, planning and resources in combination are much more important for the development of a specific industry than a population’s quirks (“The Midwest Mentality...does allow people to have lives... another thing Chicagoans and Midwesterners are rather enthusiastic about.”)

When it comes to producing funny people on the cheap, I for one truly believe we’ve got New York City beat. If the Onion’s attempts at Chicago cracks as published in the Chicago Reader—really, Meigs Field and the Cubs!?—serve as evidence, we are already well on our way to giving America’s Finest News Source a warm welcome home.

By Caroline O'Donovan