Amid College Newspaper Carnage, Why I’m Still in Favor of April Fools’ Editions

In recent years, the fallouts from student press April Fools’ editions have ratcheted up– or maybe it just seems that way due to social media.  Regardless, I strongly believe in the usefulness and power of these special issues.  When done right, they can start much-needed conversations, trigger university-wide belly-laughs, and memorably point out all manner of campus lunacies and hypocrisies.

Students should of course be warned about the dangers and educated about the legal and ethical implications.  But otherwise I do believe student media staffers should be let loose, within reason, once a year to make Fools’ themselves– for their own and others’ enjoyment.

Why I’m Still in Favor of April Fools’ Editions

1) They are part of a tradition.  Satire and one-liners have long been entertainment and commentary mainstays within college media, harkening back to the early days of student humor magazines near the start of the last century.  One example, an aside in an old Harvard Lampoon:

He: “You know I love you– will you marry me?”

She: “But, my dear boy, I refused you only a week ago”

He: “Oh! Was that you?”

2) They are funny.  Amid the gasps and mob attacks on a few high-profile failures each year, a breathtakingly large majority of college media’s April Fools’ content is simply enjoyed.  The stories and images elicit chuckles, knowing eye-rolls or “hey-look-at-this” pass-alongs.

3) There is truth in laughter.  The special editions often poke and prod at campus and national issues worthy of introspection and critiques.  In some cases, the spoof stories are able to voice an opinion about a sacred campus cow in a much more impacting, eye-catching way than a regular news story or op-ed.

4) Snark, snark, everywhere.  Current media, pop culture, and everyday conversations are evermore awash in snarky spoof-tasticness– from “The Daily Show”, The Onion, and Twitter to HBO’s “Girls,” Jenna Marbles, and memes.  The April Fools’ editions fit snugly into how students increasingly live, laugh, communicate, and receive information.

5) Education, spoofed.  Amid the clunky story tropes and painfully unfunny headlines, the editions are the foundation for an actual learning experience.  Stepping back from straight news, students’ April Fools’ work teaches them how to use “humor, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule to expose and criticize people’s stupidity or vices, particularly in the context of contemporary politics and other topical issues.”  The satirical news production cycle also teaches students about related legal issues and what issues and individuals are fair game and off-limits.

6) A change of pace.  The calendar is kind to these editions, calling for them at the exact moment in spring semester when student staffs are especially tired of the news grind and each other.  Just as their journalistic hearts are growing cold and hard like leftover newsroom pizza, April Fools’ is a one-off issue in which laughter can and should kick off the brainstorming meetings; staff bonding can and should trump news pegs; and j-students’ batteries can and should be recharged.

7) The Fools’ forever factor.  The issues are unique keepsakes, providing fresh, funny glimpses into campus life at particular moments in a school’s history.

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