Year of “The Acorn”

2015-05-26_13-43-15Cocaine snow on campus, mascot changes and a new degree in Trivia Crack studies; it has been a busy year here at Simpson College. Well, according to the satirical student publication, The Acorn, it has at least.

Reminiscent of the popular satirical publication The Onion, this student-run publication was started in October to let students report on the bizarre and often fake happenings at Simpson and beyond. Friends Nick Hermon and Robert Lyons co-founded the project after it started as a joke during their “Beginning Newswriting” class.

The publication has posted over 75 articles online so far and has been putting out about three stories a week. The Facebook page has reached 422 likes in less than a year; just under half of the 895 likes The Simpsonian, Simpson’s student newspaper, has on Facebook.

Many of the stories contain run-on gags and the theme of all things nut/squirrel related is nearly omnipresent in Acorn material. This can be seen in anywhere from the name of the made up fraternity created for an article (Nu Upsilon Tau) to the article on a course being offered soon in “squirrel speak”.

The stories are usually written by students in journalism and are often a harmless way to poke fun at current events on campus. Nick Yaeger is a junior studying mathematics and biology, but he has written for and been featured in Acorn articles.

“I really like satirical news. I think there is a lot of value to satire and it is kind of fun to be a part of it. When it is tailored to the campus it makes it just that much better,” Yaeger said.

Hermon and Lyons came up with the idea for The Acorn while working together in a beginning newswriting course. They created a fake publication as a gag for the class, but later decided to keep it going for fun. The initial article was a “Game of Thrones” parody of Simpson’s homecoming court. Soon a website was created and others wanted to help.

“We kind of just kept growing at that point. It started off as a joke between me and Nick and now we have a staff of around 15 people,” Lyons said.
The initial reaction in the Simpson community was mostly confusion but the site has taken measures to try and avoid confusion in the future. With the growing popularity and an increase in students being involved with production, the confusion on campus has decreased.

“At first they (Simpson students) were really confused, but I think over time people are starting to realize we are a satirical news source on campus,” Hermon said.
Some groups are still confused when encountering an Acorn article. Alumni who do not realize the site’s satirical basis have discovered stories through Facebook.
“Some of the alumni are just now figuring it out because they started sharing our story that we had a new mascot. They didn’t realize we are satirical news. They started voting for the new mascot (on the website),” Hermon said.

The story generated more than 100 votes on mascot options and the website has since posted a disclaimer at the bottom of every page stating the satirical nature of the publication.

When trying to gain readership around campus, Lyons and Hermon have tried to reach students in increasingly creative ways. On April 28th, an email was sent out to the entire student body describing a fake May Term course on squirrel taxidermy to promote one of their articles. They previously created a fake letter from a student’s GPA and put them in students’ mailboxes and have plans for a large prank at the beginning of next year.

The publication recently took a break from the laughs to address a serious issue.  During Sexual Assault Response Advocates (SARA) week, Lyons wrote the Acorn’s first serious article, partnering with the group to promote awareness about sexual assault.

“We wanted to stand with SARA and show that sexual assault is not something that should be made fun of. It’s a serious issue and we felt that it was an important cause. We had close to 30 people share it,” Lyons said. “I felt really good writing that. It’s great to be fun all the time but there are some things we just need to be serious about.”

The tone on most stories is generally much lighter. This was the case in one of Lyons’ favorite stories so far. He wrote a story regarding an Air Force training exercise gone wrong, resulting in cocaine being spilled across Simpson campus in a snow-like fashion.

“I actually did a lot of research into cocaine and the capacity of cargo planes and supply routes for about an hour and a half before writing that story. I just got really interested and went down the rabbit hole,” Lyons said.

While the publication is for fun, the writers often dedicate themselves to accuracy and want to expand on the way stories are reaching readers. Hermon and Lyons have big plans and are working on several projects for the publication. They are developing a mobile app to allow users to choose what stories “rumble your pocket”.
They have increased the amount of videos being produced and are seeing more shares online because of it. Their “Night Before Finals” Christmas parody video is the most viewed piece at over 500 views. One of the ways Lyons and Hermon are looking to expand is a weekly news show as an extension of the stories already being produced.

The co-founders have found, while it is funny, there are two sides to writing satire. Making fun is important but so is making a point. Through watching the Charlie Hebdo attacks unfold, consuming other satire work like The Onion, and writing for The Acorn, they have found this to be true.

“I think it (satire) is important because Simpson is kind of down right now,” Hermon said. “With the layoffs and everything and the lack of funding around campus, people can have a sour attitude towards Simpson. I think just being funny and trying to make people smile can really help build the self-esteem of the school.”
The Acorn is still a new organization and are looking to continue growing.  If any students should want to get involved, they can show up to one of the Acorn’s monthly meetings next year or find them on social media. They can be reached on Twitter at @TheSimpsonAcorn or at Facebook.com/simpsonacorn.

By: Blake Willadsen

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Categories: Features, News

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  1. Top Moments of 2015 at Simpson College | The Simpson Acorn - January 2, 2016

    […] overall, we think it was a good year… (Especially since The Acorn turned 1) So, see ya next […]

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