By: David Noack
Pub. group parody’s ‘Gray Lady’ for April Fools’
When does “All the News That’s Fit to Print” become “All the News We Could Afford to Print”? On April 1, of course, when The New York Times found itself the target of a parody prankster.
The 32-page parody issue, which cost $4 at the newsstand, and created by Hard Eight Publishing in Manhattan, was partially funded to the tune of $50,000 by British entrepreneur Richard Branson, who owns Virgin Atlantic Airways, a record company and a soft drink maker.
“Regarding the parody, imitation is the most sincere form of flattery. It is a parody and is clearly marked as such,” says Lisa Carparelli, a Times spokeswoman.
The issue includes stories about how the Church of England is returning to the Roman Catholic Church; a proposal for the British Royal family to be floated on the stock exchange; and an obituary for Disney chief, Michael Eisner, who was reportedly pummeled to death by a disgruntled worker described as having a set of large round ears and a black dot for a nose.
Readers were also made aware of the fact that Virgin Atlantic sponsored “I Can’t Believe It’s Not The New York Times,” thanks to four full-page ads, produced by New York ad agency CMG Communications, the most outrageous of which shows a Virgin pilot laughing so hard, as he reads a copy of the parody, he’s wet himself.
The idea for the tongue-in-cheek edition was hatched last summer by Donald Welsh, the chairman of Group 27 Communications, who approached Branson’s company about sponsoring the parody issue. Welsh, who was teaching a magazine and book publishing course at Radcliffe College, met Matthew Polly, who wanted to create a humor magazine. He created a prototype and was hired by Welsh.
“I came to [Polly] after Christmas and said that we should do a parody of The New York Times, because I think it would be fun,” says Welsh. He says that about 22 writers worked on the project since November 1998, with most having other jobs at magazines or freelancing. The majority of them were under 30.
Welsh is surprised the effort remained a secret. For accounting purposes, a new company, Hard Eight Publishing, was formed to create the newspaper. The company will now be disbanded.
“I assumed that it would leak and it never did. We did it just for fun and it came out very well,” says Welsh, who parodied the New York Post about a decade ago.
More than 115,000 copies of the four-section parody were published, with 100,000 appearing at newsstands in New York and in select markets across the country. The other 15,000 copies were freely distributed to Virgin Atlantic passengers.
“Virgin Atlantic enjoys a reputation as a fun, innovative company and for giving people a good time,” says David Tait, Virgin Atlantic executive vice president.
Michael Glavin, a managing partner at CMG Communications, says the news is more about parodying itself than spoofing the paper. “Obviously the whole year was a parody of news. You got a wrestler elected governor; you got Monica. ?t was a great year to do parody, period, because the real ammunition wasn’t the New York Times it was the news itself and the New York Times is really the quintessential news vehicle. I think it’s nothing more than a compliment,” says Glavin, whose firm handles Virgin Atlantic ads and created airline ads for the parody issue.
Branson, the founder of Virgin Atlantic, is known for April 1 pranks. In 1992, his custom-built, hot-air balloon/UFO, complete with green-suited Martian dwarfs, managed to cause major gridlock as it flew over a London suburb.
?(Editor & Publisher Web Site: http://www.mediainfo.com) [Caption]
?(Copyright: Editor & Publisher April 10,1999) [Caption]