Occasionally spotted in costume around Robarts and Sid Smith, Noonan is Editor-in-Chief of The Beaverton, a burgeoning news satire publication in the same vein as The Onion.
After he distributed numerous copies of The Beaverton to a receptive stream of pedestrians this past Monday evening, we sat down with him to discuss the production, presentation, and possibilities of a Canadian news satire publication.
the newspaper: What prepared you for the challenge of creating a news satire publication?
Laurent Noonan: I studied literature and English satire focusing on 18th century works by Swift and Pope, which motivated me a lot. I already had a lot of respect for satire, but after studying it at the university level I felt more at ease with the idea of throwing myself into a project like this. A lot of what we do is silly, but you have to be witty to make it work. As for my experience at the newspaper, what helped me there was building their website. The experience I had designing and maintaining it was what gave me the confidence to start this project. I knew that if I wanted to get this project off the ground, there needed to be a major website in place.
How much of a connection is there between U of T and The Beaverton?
I started networking and using the U of T Career Centre, so a majority of our writers and editors are from U of T, especially UTM because of their writing program. Right now there's definitely a big U of T connection, but it's mostly by coincidence. It just so happens that there's a lot of good, funny writers coming out of U of T.
How does The Beaverton develop its content?
Our content is very much a collaborative process, since we pitch ideas to each other and make a lot of decisions on what to produce as a group. A major focus of ours is Canadian content. We had a few articles about Toronto in this issue, and obviously we're going to focus a lot on Canada. Also, because we're still trying to build up a readership, jokes that are going to be funny years from now are also very good. It's just not a good strategy to spend a lot of time working on something that loses its relevance in a month.
Can you talk about the presentation of The Beaverton?
"The idea is to make The Beaverton look really professional. I think some people would expect a joke publication to look weird and goofy. What you really want is for it to look like a real newspaper, using a news format and deadpan style, which is counter-intuitive because you're almost trying not to be funny. Everything is designed to make The Beaverton seem real, but the story lines and premises are all outrageous. After all, part of the satire is how it plays itself completely straight. In fact we've had comments about people reading articles and not knowing that it was fake until a few paragraphs in.
What's the future look like for The Beaverton?
Right now, we're trying to get readers across Canada to visit our website. With future prints we'll look to expand and distribute in cities near Toronto. We'd like to print once per month, but it all depends on whether we can organize distribution, which is something that's very hard right now. Next to that, we also called The Beaverton “North America's trusted source of news” since it could branch out and do more US parody and satire, and we didn't want to limit ourselves to just one market. So though we focus on Toronto and Canada, we also feature generic articles which are pretty funny whether you're a Canadian or an American, such as the “Comedians make better lovers: study” article, which would still be funny to someone in the US as well.
The Beaverton regularly updates online at www.thebeaverton.com, and print issues can be found with the cigar smoking beaver occasionally appearing near Sid Smith and Robarts.