Marquette Wire

Northwestern students start satirical campus newspaper

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Owski, a junior in the School of Engineering at Northwestern University, said he would be a humor writer.

Three weeks later, Owski started The Spectre, Northwestern's first satirical newspaper-much like The Onion.,”In April, when Evan Owski was asked what he wanted to do with the rest of his life he said he would be a humor writer.

Three weeks later, Owski, a junior in the School of Engineering at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., started The Spectre, Northwestern's first satirical newspaper – much like The Onion.

"There really isn't any humor publication at Northwestern," Owski said. "The Spectre fills a niche there and once people find out about it we can really see our readership grow."

Owski contacted a few of his close friends to write, who are not only funny but who also understand humor and can write well, he said.

Their first issue, on April 23, poked fun at the school's new dorm security measures.

"We thought we'd take a crack at that and said, 'New university security measures to take cue from medieval warfare,'" Owski said.

The article described absurd security measures like moats in the dorm, drawbridges and archers on top of each dorm.

Owski said their newspaper tries to stay specific to Northwestern events.

"Anything that they would cover at our campus newspaper, we would cover," Owski said.

Michael Szajewski, a junior in the School of Communication and assistant editor of The Spectre, said the staff tries to make a joke of trends and the atmosphere at Northwestern.

In their upcoming issue, they are writing about Northwestern's new student week, during which freshmen listen to drug and alcohol lectures.

"Northwestern would cover how the students would go through puberty a take off one of those 50s sex education reels," Owski said.

Szajewski said Owski gets most of his ideas from The Onion, a newspaper that makes fun of stylistic ideas in journalism. But he said his ideas are different.

"My ideas are influenced by campus events or campus trends rather than something in The Onion," Szajewski said. "The general idea is sort of in tune with The Onion – it's really derivative of that style of humor."

Miles Harvey, an adjunct professor in the School of Continuing Studies at Northwestern, said the reason newspapers like The Onion are funny is because they sound like a real news story.

"You have to get the buzzwords down, you have to write good news copy. The Onion is especially good at that," Harvey said. "The headlines are written like headlines in a million mid-size dailies."

The Spectre follows a similar journalistic style. One of the paper's online headlines reads, "WASP Student group to host polo match to raise awareness."

Owski said The Spectre is not officially recognized by Northwestern, but those involved are hoping to get official university status.

He said the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive.

"I think there's a lot of campus we haven't reached yet, and among people we haven't reached, there's an interest," Owski said.

Szajewski said it's hard to get the word out, but hopes it will be a cult following.

Owski said they are trying to publish The Spectre every three weeks this semester.

"I'd like to see it continue and be a tradition at Northwestern," Owski said.

Erik Ugland, assistant professor in Marquette's College of Communication, said he cannot recall another alternative newspaper at Marquette.

He said everyone would enjoy an Onion-like paper, if it can be done well.

"Sometimes people think they can do comedy and it's a lot harder than they imagine," Ugland said. "It's not enough to be funny and not enough to be a good writer. You have to be both."

John Pauly, dean of the College of Communication, said a humor newspaper would encourage the opposite of what the journalism program promotes accuracy and fact-checking but he would encourage a paper like The Onion.

"It's not something we would sponsor as a college, but certainly if students would look to do it for fun it would be something we would encourage," Pauly said.

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