Spread Eagle lampoons campus
The Spread Eagle, an independent fake-news publication in the spirit of The Onion, brought AU an eye for comedy this semester.
The idea came to editor Frederik Fran Jenkins "in a dream as she sat beneath the Sphinx," according to Greg Wipf, SE vice editor. From this divine inspiration follows a noble ambition. The newspaper's writers believe that the SE will eventually become immensely popular, so they have adopted pen names. Only Wipf gave his full name.
"I heard that it was supposed to compete with the Harvard Lampoon eventually," said Emily, a Spread Eagle staff writer.
Expectations for the near future, though, are somewhat tempered. Ross, cartoonist and layout designer, sees the SE "printed on nicer paper."
Until that nicer paper comes, the jokesters are content with churning out comical takes on AU life, politics, sex and all breeds of randomness with any pen and paper-like implements they can find.
"We were thinking about doing the next issue in blood," joked SE writer Alex.
Alex and Ross joke about the pints - blood and other - that have already gone into producing the paper.
"The Eagle is a good publication if you want to read what's going on, on campus," Ross said. "But it doesn't really tell you about the real underside of what's going on."
Mystery writer Molly agreed and said, "Yeah, The Eagle is so concerned with journalistic integrity."
This cavalier approach has produced results. The Sept. 29 issue captured the passionate high-five on the Letts-Anderson Quad between frat brothers Mike Epps and Shane McKinney. The recent Halloween issue reported Johnny Appleseed's mayoral candidacy in the town of Appleton and the breakup of the Anarchy Club. No other campus publication reported these stories. The SE has also addressed the looming but unpublished controversy over AU's lopsided female to male ratio.
"We're not afraid of tackling the hard-hitting stories," Emily said of her paper's candor.
Ross complements this incisive journalism with minimalist cartoons. The Halloween issue featured a stick figure of President Bush, holding an American flag while exclaiming, "I'm a dumb ass!"
"I'm not a very political person by nature so I just figured I'd try to make it general. And I was never good at drawing characters of actual people, so it just made sense to use stick figures," said Ross. "I think it goes from more of a Philip Glass standpoint on things. So really the spaces left are as important as the spaces used."
Some readers said Ross' artwork really connects with them.
"I liked the cartoon," said Letts Hall Desk Receptionist Jessica Jasper. "I happen to be a Republican, but I still thought it was funny."
Overall reactions to the paper are mixed.
"Some of it's good and some of it's bad," said sophomore Daniel Cohen.
Senior Tim Herzog was less equivocal, "I think it's funny as shit. The whole thing is so tongue-in-cheek. Anyone who takes it seriously is an asshole."
In addition to his explicit enthusiasm, Herzog said, "They need to make it more accessible to students."
Indeed, few students have heard of and read the SE.
"We believe in scarcity equaling value; therefore the less we print and hand out the more valuable our paper is, so ultimately we see it being used as a currency of sorts," SE writer Kevin said.
The staff would not comment on publication frequency, but until the dollar collapses and the SE becomes legal tender, they plan to keep it free.
"If you make people pay for things, they don't want it," Ross said. "Even if you charge a penny, they're like 'I don't have a penny. Do you take EagleBuck$?'"
Appreciative readers have, however, donated $15 to the SE.
Fueled by this positive feedback and the desire to squander the $15, the SE staff gathered Monday night on the couches in Mary Graydon Center to celebrate their Halloween issue. Between straight-faced sarcasm about plans for world domination and biblical-plague weather reports, the staff talked openly to new writers and strategized for improvement.
The group is relying on word-of-mouth for now. Next semester they might do some advertising, Kevin said.
"We do plan to get our name out there," he said. "We're thinking a Super Bowl spot. It depends on the money. We're not sure"