In its first issue, The GW Carver investigated racial tension in D.C. – racial tension between gray and white squirrels, to be precise.
The Carver, the University’s satirical newspaper, pokes fun at the GW community with fake news stories.
“We like to be devil’s advocate on a lot of issues just for the hell of it,” said junior Elizabeth Roth, the paper’s copy editor. “Basically anything GW is fair game.”
The two-year old newspaper published its first issue in spring 2003 with only a “handful” of staff members, said senior Jesse Bergman, The Carver’s editor in chief. There are now about 15 regular staff members.
Alex Mizrahi, a 2004 GW graduate, and a few of his friends began the publication with a two-fold purpose: “To get laid and to produce some kind of readable magazine with humorous content,” Bergman said.
“They claimed they started it to get girls, but I think he (Mizrahi) really started it because he knew a lot of funny people who were journalism majors. I think it ended up being more than that,” Bergman said. “And I don’t think he got laid, by the way.”
The Carver, which first received Student Association co-sponsorship last spring, received an SA allocation of $640 this year. Each issue, which has a circulation of about 2,000 copies, costs about $300 to print. The group plans to publish three or four issues this year.
The staff funded the publication “out of pocket” with each staff member paying about $20 per issue before they received SA funding, Roth said.
The newspaper, which is typically four pages with an insert, plans to distribute its second issue of the year on Thursday. Roth said the insert in the first issue this fall spoofed the University’s freshman writing program, UW20. The “Revised Program Syllabus” included suggestions for courses such as “The SparkNotes Approach to Shakespeare” and “The Rhetoric of Cereal Labels.”
Roth said the staff meets a few times a month, gathering in places such as J Street and the Ivory Tower food court to throw around ideas. She said anywhere from five to 20 people attend the meetings.
“It gets a little nuts,” Roth said. “If we all think it’s funny, it goes in.”
Faced with financial restrictions, the staff originally considered printing the publication as an advertisement in The Hatchet because they thought it would be less expensive than printing fees. Bergman said they decided not to because they “wanted to do something distinct from The Hatchet.”
“One day we hope to make fun of The Hatchet,” Bergman said. “We haven’t directly lampooned them yet.”
Many humor magazines and satirical publications on college campuses poke fun at their campus newspapers.
“I like to lampoon the Michigan Daily,” said Benjamin Bass, editor-in-chief of The Gargoyle, the University of Michigan’s humor magazine. “Sometimes we parody disingenuous editorials.”
He added that his publication, which is nearly 100 years old, shares a building with the campus newspaper and that they have a friendly relationship. He noted, however, that there had been tension between the two publications in the past.
The Carver does not have a central location and relies on staff members working from home.
Bergman, who watches “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” regularly, said some staff members read The Onion, a national weekly satirical publication.
Two students at the University of Wisconsin started The Onion in 1988. About four million people read the online and print editions of The Onion each week, according to the newspaper’s website.
“We like to model ourselves after The Onion,” Roth said.
She added that The Carver has “not yet” caused any controversy with material that has appeared in the publication.
“I don’t know if that’s good or bad,” Roth said. “We’d get more attention.”
The Maryland Cow Nipple, the University of Maryland’s satirical publication, may not agree that the attention they got for a story they published four years ago about conflict in the Middle East was beneficial. The editors wrote an apology in the campus newspaper after their story, “Pokemon Dole Out Middle East Peace,” offended some students.
Bass, the Michigan student, said The Gargoyle was kicked off campus in the 1960s for causing controversy on campus when they were critical of the government and the Vietnam War.
Bass added that “a lot of famous people have passed through our ranks,” including famous playwright Arthur Miller, who wrote for The Gargoyle. NBC funnyman Conan O’Brien was an editor for the Harvard Lampoon, the world’s oldest humor magazine, which was founded in 1876.
“We try to live up to our heritage,” said Bass, who added that college campuses provide a wealth of material to satirize. “People here are exploring their identities and really discovering their social roles … it’s a smorgasbord on every college campus. There are many people who take themselves way too seriously.”