Students start satirical news site

There are already eight publications at Palo Alto High School that cover nearly all fields of journalism, so why add another?

“A lot of what Paly does is too serious,” junior Will Robertson said.

Robertson and junior Emil Ernstrom’s creation of Paly’s new satirical news site, The Daily Pillage, breaks this reputation.

“It serves a different purpose [from other Paly publications],” Robertson said. “It’s not meant to inform you; it’s meant to entertain you. The other publications are entertaining too, but [The Daily Pillage] is just fun. We’re not trying to be serious.”

The Daily Pillage was started on Sept. 8 on WordPress, an online blog software. Based on the famous parody news organization The Onion, which publishes satirical articles on global news, The Daily Pillage publishes articles that parodies news at Paly. All the articles written for The Daily Pillage are student-submitted and all are published anonymously on the site.

“I was in class and I heard someone say something sarcastically and I thought, that sounds like an Onion article,” Ernstrom said. “Then I thought, why doesn’t Paly have its own satirical site?”

The founders of the site shaped their idea to mimic the satirical approach of other satirical news sites, in particular, The Onion.

“The Onion has very good journalistic style, so we wanted to emulate that, in a sense,” Robertson said.“We wanted to satirize decisions made by the administration, and just events happening on campus.”

Some headlines include “Paly Graduate Receives Streaking Scholarship from Harvard, Pursues Lifelong Dream of Professional Streaking” and “Gunn Four Years Away from Nuclear Weapons, Satellite Image Reveals.”

The establishment of the website also raised the question of whether anyone would take the jokes on the website too literally?

“We thought that the school probably wouldn’t support it because of the potential for offensive material,” Robertson said. “But there [hasn’t] been any complications so far. “

To avoid problems with gullible readers, the staff of The Pillage makes sure that the articles they publish are clearly satirical and not real news.

“First of all, [for an article to be published, it] has to be hard for the reader to be able to misinterpret the comedy,” Robertson said. “It has to be very clear that it is satire, and it has to be short, concise and to the point. Above all, it has to be funny.”

“There’s supposed to be some message in [the stories we publish]- something you’re critiquing about Paly or Palo Alto,” Ernstrom added. “A satire is most effective when you’re actually trying to convey something.”

Readership on the site started out strong and is growing steadily.

“The Daily Pillage is more entertaining than real-life stories,” junior Anna Zhang said, a frequent  reader and strong advocate for the web site.

“The Daily Pillage is funny because it’s satirical of Paly life, and we all understand the context,” Zhang pointed out. “Things like the pressure to get really great grades, or our rivalry with Gunn… We all understand the jokes The Pillage is publishing.”

Before the site can get any bigger or more complex, Ernstrom thinks he and the founders need to be more organized. Robertson has been playing with added aspects like audio podcasts to the site, but agrees that the site needs to be more correlated as a group before broadening their site.

As of now, The Daily Pillage is still just a site on WordPress, but the founders want to develop their innovation into something bigger.

“Next year, we will make this into a club which will, in effect, expand our influence,” Robertson said. “We might try to get a column in Verde or Voice, which would definitely help our goal, which is to expand our readership. That would probably be the most pragmatic step forward.”

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