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Publishing satire

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sprclogoFoundations_mainEthical guidelines
Satire can make for entertaining writing, however two major points should be considered when discussing the inclusion of satire: 1: Will readers get “it?” and 2: Even if readers do get “it,” are you walking a fine line with the type of content expected of your publication and that which isn’t necessarily journalistic?

While there may be nothing inherently unethical about including satirical content in a student publication, is that the type of content the publication should be known for?

Consider this: does the nightly news ever take a segment for anchors to report on something that didn’t really happen? The back page of the Washington Post run Onion-like stories? Certainly there is a place for satire, but is the legitimate news source the correct place?

Staff manual process
Discuss the need for policies and information about satire depending on the type of media you are. While satire might be appropriate for a literary magazine or humor magazine, does it have a place in the newspaper or on the website?

Suggestions

  • Satire can be an effective tool when writing an opinion piece. Consider limiting satire to the opinion pages, where it is clearly labeled opinion.
  • Satire online can create issues. Consider a former student searching for school news and comes upon a satirical piece that isn’t obviously satirical by just Googling the school name. Is the desire to include satire in a legitimate news source worth the confusion? Is satire journalistic?
  • Some schools produce special edition papers for April Fools Day. Imagine The New York Times doing the same. Hard to do, isn’t it? Why sacrifice the integrity of the paper for fun? Perhaps if satire is so important, the staff should produce a separate humor publication that doesn’t conflict with news. Staffs often think everyone will get the joke, but that’s not always the case. Further, the next time you do try to cover hard-hitting news the readers might think back to how you took everything as a joke the last issue.
  • Spend time discussing what your role as a journalist is. Are you a trained satirical writer? Just as we would advise against horoscopes and advice columns as teens often aren’t qualified to provide such content, how does satire fit in with a serious journalistic program?

Resources
Introduction to Satire, JEA  
Avoiding Libel in Satire, JEA
Ethics and Satire, JEA 
Satire Writing Tips
How to Start Writing Satire

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