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ONE TWISTED SISTER: Musician Dee Snider flashes the devil's horns to the crowd at Monster Circus, a rock mecca in Vegas. Click Arts&Life or a link to story. / Photo by Ben Hansen, special contributor

Today's word on journalism

May 8, 2009

The Last WORD

The Fat Lady Sings, Off-Key, Drools

At about this time every year, like the swallows to Capistrano or the buzzards to Hinckley, Ohio, the WORD migrates to its summer musing grounds at the sanitarium —St. Mumbles Home for the Terminally Verbose.

The reason is clear, and never moreso than as this season —the WORD's 13th —peters out.

It's been a fraught year of high palaver and eye-popping transition, both good and not-so-much. An interminable presidential campaign saga finally did end, and in extraordinary and historic fashion. Meanwhile, the bottom and everything that's below the bottom fell out of the economy, with families, homes, entire industries and —of particular interest to WORDsters and the civic-minded —dozens of daily newspapers ("I don't so much mind that newspapers are dying--it's watching them commit suicide that pisses me off." --Molly Ivins). . . all evaporating. What replaces them, from the individual to the institutional to the societal? Are we looking at a future of in-depth Tweeting?

As any newsperson or firehorse knows, it's hard to turn your back on day-to-day catastrophe --we just have to look at the car wreck. But even the most deranged and driven need a rest. As philosopher Lilly Tomlin once observed, "No matter how cynical you become, it's never enough to keep up."

So this morning, as a near-frost hovered over northern Utah, the unmarked van pulled into the driveway and the gentle, soft-spoken men in the white coats rolled the WORD out of bed and into a straitjacket for the usual summer trip to St. Mumbles, where the blathering one will be assigned a hammock and fed soothing, healthy foods --like tapioca, dog biscuits and salmon --while recharging the essential muscles of cynicism, outrage, sarcasm, social engagement and high-mindedness, in preparation for the next edition.
Summer well, friends.

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Feedback and suggestions--printable and otherwise--always welcome. "There are no false opinions."

Did 'The Truant' finally graduate? Alternative newspaper says it's here to stay

By Gideon Oakes

April 25, 2009 | They've been called geniuses, sickos and everything in between. Their fans ­ or perhaps more appropriately, those who tolerate them ­ can't seem to get enough of their material, while most others find them distasteful at best.

Love them or hate them, the boys at The Truant celebrated their first anniversary this month and say they're nowhere near ready to quit writing the racy, raunchy, shock-value satire that has made them local celebrities of sorts.

The Truant officially began online last April and published a print version shortly after the beginning of the school year, but two of its founders, who agreed to talk on the condition of pseudonymity, told Hard News Café the idea had been in the works for some time.

"This all started in [Professor Jay] Wamsley's class," said Claire Chennault, Head Editor in Charge. "We were writing news, and we thought, 'Wouldn't it be a lot more fun if it were silly and made-up?'"

Nixon Dickhouse, The Truant's self-proclaimed "Benevolent Dictator for Life," said it started as simply a hobby for him.

"It was one of those larks you get when you look around and see so much to be satirized," Dickhouse said. "I never thought it would be anything more than something I e-mailed to my buddies."

Over the past 12 months, Chennault and Dickhouse have led a staff of eight volunteer writers to little critical acclaim, but to a relatively large readership. In April to date, the website has logged more than 2,700 unique visits, serving up nearly 12,000 page views.

"Sometimes I think that there's some sort of chord we're striking," Dickhouse said. "You wouldn't think the [number of] people who read us and find us the least bit interesting or funny could be that many."

While one might tend to think a publication with headlines such as "Mulatto beside himself during race riot" might not find an audience in a traditionally conservative area such as Cache Valley, Dickhouse said The Truant lands with an indefinable demographic.

"You have a certain group in mind when you write, but then again I've e-mailed it to my buddies, who pass it on to their parents, and they thought it was a riot," he said. "These are straight-laced, hometown-values type people from Richfield, Utah."

Chennault said while the humor isn't meant to be "super high-brow," a certain level of intelligence is required of readers.

"More than anything, you have to have a sense of humor," he said.

While he stands by what he writes, Chennault said the use of pseudonyms allows him greater freedom to explore themes that he might not choose if there was more of a chance of repercussion.

"First off, I'm a craven coward, but second of all, it allows me to be more honest with what I write," Chennault said. "And so many times, we model story ideas off of real life. It could make for awkward dinner conversation if one of my mom's friends ever read it and knew I was actually writing about her."

Dickhouse agreed, citing a potential for interference with his day job.

"It is cowardice. There's no other way around it," he said. "If people at my place of work knew what I was writing ­ and on some level, I really don't care what they think of me ­ but when it comes to my business persona, at some point I have to realize I'm selling a part of my soul to pay the mortgage."

Dickhouse and Chennault also agreed that someday the time may come when they decide to reveal their true identities, but it would have to be an important milestone.

"I will publish my name when I'm done writing," Dickhouse said.

In the meantime, neither man has plans to retire from the project, despite constantly seeking to recruit new talent. Dickhouse said the project can always use fresh blood because great writing leads to more great writing.

"We've got a snowball effect. We inspire each other," he said. "Like, I'll read something absolutely brilliant and think, ‘I'm making fart jokes in comparison to that,' and it improves my stuff."

The Truant can be found online and at the Facebook group "I read the real news at" (Warning: some content may be considered offensive.)



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