Did 'The Truant' finally graduate?
Alternative newspaper says it's here to stay
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
"More than anything, you have to have a sense of humor,"
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
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 www.TheTruant.com." (Warning: some content may
be considered offensive.)