Satirical MU paper aims to entertain

Two students who founded it say they will keep publishing despite a dispute with MU Student News.
Monday, April 4, 2005 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 5:19 p.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008

[Note: this story has been modified since its original posting.]

There is strange news at MU. Golden retriever Buddy the Dog signed with MU’s men’s basketball team to play most valuable pooch. “Crazy” Carl Young lives in campus recycling bins. And students wearing colored bracelets are making a fake statement of care.

Some might find these stories crass and offensive, and others might find them funny, but MU students Hayley Salvo and Leslie Timmons hope their newspaper can be all three. The two friends are the brains behind Misery Weekly, a satirical campus publication that carried the stories above in its debut issue Friday.

Salvo and Timmons are passionate about their endeavor and say they are willing to produce the publication despite threats of legal action from their former employer, MU Student News.

Misery Weekly’s satirical and humorous content is mainly fictional and it includes made-up sources and quotes. Salvo and Timmons, two journalism majors from Dallas, decided to add some spice to MU’s publication offerings after reading similar papers put out by Texas universities, such as Perversity Weekly at Texas Tech.

“We have schools that teach us how to write good leads and news stories, but they don’t teach us how to be satirical and poke fun at events around the world,” Timmons said. “I think it’s something that is fun and will continue to be popular.”

Because Misery Weekly is neither pure news nor complete fiction, it might be labeled as “infotainment,” a combination of information and entertainment. Popular examples of the genre include The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and the satirical publication The Onion. Salvo and Leslie said that if they can make students laugh, they have accomplished their goal.

“We could be potentially offending a lot of people, but we could also be entertaining a lot of people, which is what we hope to do,” Salvo said.

Salvo and Timmons chose April Fools’ Day for the debut of Misery Weekly. The first issue contained news, features, opinion, and sports, and Salvo and Timmons expect to keep the format for future issues, which will start coming out weekly April 13.

While Salvo and Timmons have successfully made their offbeat creation a reality, they could face obstacles down the road. Before Misery Weekly, both Salvo and Pimmons worked for MU Student News. While working there, Timmons signed a contract that said she could not work for a competing publication for a year after leaving MU Student News.

Timmons said Geoffrey Preckshot, the lawyer representing the owner of MU Student News, sent her a letter demanding she “cease and desist” her involvement with the new publication. Both Preckshot and MU Student News owner Marc Thompson declined to comment. Timmons and Salvo said Misery Weekly is not a newspaper and does not compete with MU Student News. They also said their new paper does not target advertisers who place ads exclusively in MU Student News.

The two added that they had fun working for the Student News, but they disagreed with how the paper was run.

“The root of the problem is in the ownership and how the owner chose to run the business, which was as a business and not as a student newspaper,” Salvo said.

Most of the production process for Misery Weekly takes place in the apartment Salvo shares with Timmons. Putting it out has been an interesting experience so far, she said.

“It has been analogous to my relationship with Leslie,” Salvo said. “We’re the kinds of friends who love each other one day and want to kill each other the next, and it’s kind of been like that.”

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