, the student-run newspaper of the University of Missouri-Columbia, puts together an April Fool's Day issue every year that attempts to skewer the pompous and poke fun at the too-serious people and institutions on campus. This year's issue, titled "The Carpeteater," has been roundly denounced
for the sexism of its fake title
, the misogyny implied in its fake bylines (many of them incorporating some pun on "cunt," "slut" or "whore") and a general air of casual cruelty rather than that of rough 'n' ready humor.
Two elements of this tale of woe seem noteworthy.
First, the Maneater is an independent paper; despite being a student paper on the Mizzou campus. It's not affiliated with the journalism school, and it does not have professional advisers. Second, it's an educational paper, and an integral part of learning is making mistakes. This is a pretty good mistake.
Managing editor Abby Spudich acknowledged the insensitivity of the fake issue in a letter posted on the Maneater's website
, and admitted errors were made -- among them her admission that she didn't know "carpet eater" was a slur often directed at lesbians -- and then offered contrition, along with the news that next year's April Fool's issue has already been canceled.
Ms. Spudich, canceling the issue is your second mistake. Instead, learn from this experience. The newspaper business is undergoing a tumultuous period. If the Maneater is to survive, you have to change with the times.
Our advice? Stop going for the profane joke, and go for the profitable one. Come up with an "-eater" pun that you can leverage with a marketing tie-in. The liquor brand "Beefeater" comes immediately to mind, followed quickly by the shoe insert "Odor-Eater." You undergrad J-students could be stinking of expensive dry gin (and not of musty socks) next year if you play your cards right. "Burritoeater," "Pizzaeater," "Brownie-eater" (not
"Brown-Eye Eater," please note -- you don't want to go down that road again) -- all safe bets for next year.
The other perk to this method is that the J-school hardcore will recoil in horror at the thought of a marketing tie-in displayed right on the front page. If you want to stir up shit further, make next year's headline story the announcement of a Maneater paywall.