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April fools

My friend Mike really wanted The Star News to do an April Fools edition this year.

For the past several months, basically as soon as he looked at the calendar and realized that April 1 fell on a Thursday in 2021, he has been texting me story ideas for an April Fools section he wanted us to call The Spare News. Some of his more printable suggestions have been “Kwik Trip announces opening of 16th city of Medford location, promises additional stores in 2022,” “Bigfoot appears at county board meeting, demands to be moved to front of COVID vaccine line,” “City unveils plan for clothing optional beach at former downtown laundromat location” and “City decides to not buy another new truck.” The last one in particular, he offered some potential quotes about how trucks really do grow on trees, but are just very expensive to pick, most likely due to all the workman’s compensation claims.

Before you ask, I don’t think Mike has any intention of leaving his day job to pursue a career in comedy writing.

For those who have spent the better part of their lives living under a rock, the concept of April Fools Day is to have a good natured laugh or two at other people’s gullibility with harmless pranks and frivolity.

The most popular version of the origins of April Fools Day has to do with the regional medieval practice of celebrating the start of the new year on that date before switching it to January 1. Those that continued to celebrate it in early spring, were generally made fun of by their neighbors.

In full disclosure, I have never been a huge fan of playing pranks on people. In my experience what is good-natured to one person often descends into just being mean depending on what side of the prank you are on. Of course, my viewpoint is highly influenced by having two older brothers and two older sisters who needed no excuse at all to make me the butt of their humor.

Mike’s suggestion to pull a prank on the entire community with an April Fools section is not unprecedented. Historically, mainstream media would often take the opportunity for some lighthearted humor using the day as an excuse to run some satire pieces. This was in the era long before satire news sites such as The Onion or The Babylon Bee made poking fun at preconceptions a 24-hour a day enterprise. Heck, even The Star News got into it in 1998 under former editor Don Woerpel, who ran a lengthy front page story about aliens crash landing in Lublin. At the time, I was sports editor and had gotten in on the fun by running a story on the high jump pits coming to life and swallowing a Medford high jumper during an outdoor track meet with the statement from assistant district administrator Brian Kulas about how this was the first documented incident of its type since the “End Zone Massacre of 1945 when 10 members of the Medford Red Raider Football team were sucked into the sod of the end zone” adding that the field had since been resodded. The other story on the page was about the then 63-year-old Don “Socks” Woerpel making a run at returning to basketball and trying out for the pros.

By the time the calendars aligned to have April 1 on a press day again, the tides had changed and then editor Laurie Sacho firmly opposed any such frivolity as undermining the credibility of The Star News. While everyone could have used a laugh or two in 2010 when the area was still struggling with a slow economic recovery, it is in poor taste to pick on people who are already down.

Nowadays, we live in an era where the label of “fake news” gets plastered on legitimate media outlets with regular frequency and where a target of a prank is more likely to sue you than to join in the laugh. Besides, the past 12 months have been crazy enough on their own with actual news stories, it would be hard to top it with fiction.

Hopefully the next time the calendar and press schedule coincide to have April 1 on a paper day again in 2027, things will have come around to being able to share in poking fun at ourselves.

Brian Wilson is News Editor at The Star News.