You can make this stuff up: Fake Marshfield News opens up while remaining anonymous
By Hub City Times staff
MARSHFIELD — Many in the Marshfield area have gleefully discovered a satirical Facebook page dedicated to send-ups of local government, issues, culture, and the media. The page has a growing and devoted audience despite the mystery as to who is actually behind the often irreverent posts.
What follows is a question and answer interview supplied by Fake Marshfield News.
Q: Is there more than one contributor to Fake Marshfield News, or is it all written by one individual?
A: We have more than one contributor and a single editor. The circle … is small and self-contained. We value and actively protect our anonymity.
Q: Are you from the Marshfield area?
A: We all reside in Marshfield and aim to be hyper local with posts. If someone from Marshfield understands a reference or a weaving of multiple references in a post, but an outsider does not, we consider that to be a good post. Inside jokes are a sign of a strong community. We suspect that some posts are understood by readers later, after they encounter related news.
We’ve heard it said that any given viewer of “The Simpsons” only catches 10 percent of the references. We are probably among those viewers and have no problem being among those writers.
Q: Where did the idea for Fake Marshfield News come from? What is the goal?
A: Skills are honed through practice. At a basic level, and a primary reason for the page, the Fake Marshfield News Facebook page provides an outlet for very short form — headline-length — creative writing. It also provides an avenue for social media experimentation.
We are fans of the long tradition of satirists and humorists. Aesop’s Fables and later fairy tales and nursery rhymes are often overlooked as satire, though they frequently poked fun at power and issues through veiled references. Mark Twain, Erma Bombeck, and David Sedaris, particularly the later, darker, lesser-known works of Twain — see “The Man That Corrupted Hadleyburg” — are among our favorite humorists and writings.
And, obviously, The Onion. We can even point to one particular piece in The Onion we read nearly 20 years ago as inspiration for the Fake Marshfield News Facebook Page: “Desperate Small Town Erects World’s Largest Fiberglass Chili Dog,” a story about a Texas village attempting to become a center of tourism. That story reminds us to crank up the absurdity level for posts.
Beyond a creative outlet and social media experimentation, there is a very real goal with some posts of bringing local issues to the surface. We love Marshfield and hope that point is understood through our posts. We show that love by sometimes voicing concerns in a humorous way.
FMN requires significantly less time commitment than an elected position and hopefully engages some people who otherwise pay little attention to local issues. And while we have viewpoints on issues, we don’t try to push an agenda — except, perhaps, about the condition of the streets. The streets make an impression on residents, potential residents who work in and visit Marshfield, and on potential developers and businesses. Plus, potholes are comedy gold.
Mostly, though, we tap into what we’re hearing in the community for inspiration, even if it conflicts with our personal viewpoint and especially if there is a humorous angle.
Q: Do you consider any issues or topics to be off limits?
A: We are not “pure” humorists because our answer to this is yes. We refrain from full-force frontal attacks against individuals or businesses and refuse to mock for the sole purpose of mocking. There was a recent health issue in town, and satirical post ideas were easy and plentiful related to that unfortunate situation, but “kick ‘em when they’re down” is not a line we intend to cross.
Q: Do you have any plans to write larger pieces in the future?
A: Full articles were the original intent of this project, in true emulation of The Onion. After writing one long-form piece — (that was) never posted — we quickly realized we didn’t have that much time to invest.
Instead we opted for daily posts, a lesser but not minor commitment. This gives us the additional advantage of bringing more ideas and concerns to light through a satirical voice and injecting more humor into the days of our readers.
Another initial intent was the occasional posting of original, hand-drawn, single-panel cartoons. We haven’t yet taken that on, but we haven’t ruled it out.
Q: What has been your most satisfying experience with the Fake Marshfield News page?
A: There have been many pleasant surprises. We gained an early following with local politicians, city employees, and the media and have enjoyed some earned media mentions. It is gratifying to know we have the ear of influencers, though we certainly won’t overstate our influence.
We see new followers liking old posts, indicating people are scrolling down to read after they discover the Facebook page, and we’ve also been pleased with the incremental growth — 360 people like the page so far — and positive Facebook reviews, including reviews by local politicians and media personnel. While our following isn’t huge, they seem appreciative. We hope to see continued steady growth.