Fake news inside
“Fake news” has been in the news a lot in the last year-and-a-half. It came to prominence with a wave of made-up stories that fooled some people in the frantic lead-up to the 2016 presidential election; the false stories tended to favor Donald Trump and trash Hillary Clinton. Then President Donald Trump repurposed the term, using it as a put-down for any real news story or agency he doesn’t like.
But fake news has been around for ages, and most of it is harmless, or at least meant to be so — done for humor rather than deceit.
For example — drum roll, please — tucked inside today’s newspaper you’ll find the Adirondack Yearly Emptyprize, our annual joke paper begun in the 1950s, stopped in the 1970s and revived in 2006. It’s our April Fools, except instead of April 1 we publish it on the weekend of the Saranac Lake Winter Carnival Gala Parade, which takes place tomorrow.
Jim Loeb and Roger Tubby started the Emptyprize shortly after they bought the Enterprise — which was shortly after Republican Dwight D. Eisenhower was sworn in as president in 1953, putting these two prominent D.C. Democrats out of work. (Mr. Tubby had been President Harry Truman’s last press secretary.) The oldest Emptyprize we have in our archives is from 1954, a single broadsheet page with a banner headline “Reds Accept Inevitable; Seeking Terms,” and a lead story about discovering that Mount Baker is made of “afraidium,” a unstable metal that would make the atom bomb obsolete.
The next year they expanded it massively. It took up almost all of the 12-page Enterprise that day; only the back page was real news. The lead headlines on page 1 were “Village Snow Machine Working Perfectly,” “Trees Termed Curse Of The Adirondacks” and “$10 Million Rest Room For S.L. Discussed.”
The Emptyprize ran for roughly 20 years with relentlessly local gags: teasing people, groups and governments, and using plenty of pre-Photoshop cut-and-paste creativity with its pictures.
Since we revived it 12 years ago, we’ve largely played off of each year’s Winter Carnival theme. This year’s flap in changing “Fiesta” to “Festival” made it only too easy to crack at least one political correctness joke.
We’ve never intended the Emptyprize to be anything more than harmless fun. Sure, we tease some people, especially those in positions of power. Governors, mayors, members of Congress and local institutions — such as the local hospital, Sunmount, prisons and colleges — have also graced the pages in parodies of current events. This year’s leads with our many congressional candidates, imagining musical projects they would undertake if they were so inclined.
Laughter is therapeutic. Joking punctures fear and relieves the world of its oppressive seriousness. We hope the Emptyprize does that a little bit for you. Newspapers have always included doses of humor, often through cartoons, but spoofing the news is as ancient as the printing press — and as sophomoric as any 12-year-old.