It might not be long before a University of Nebraska-Lincoln version of The Onion starts showing up in campus newsstands.
A growing movement of students, led by a sophomore from Broken Bow, is trying to jump-start a satirical newspaper called the Dailyer Nebraskan, a spinoff of the student-run campus paper, the Daily Nebraskan.
Those students say the UNL campus is ripe for satire, a genre that’s gained remarkable popularity among young people, and they contend a university that prides itself on diversity should offer more than one student paper.
Their skeptics worry satire violates traditional journalistic values of truthfulness, accuracy and fairness.
When Carson Vaughan arrived at UNL last year, he assumed he’d find a satirical publication like the one he’d helped start at Broken Bow High School.
He didn’t, so after his freshman year, the news-editorial and English major dreamed up the Dailyer Nebraskan, a project he believed would find considerable support among teens and twentysomethings who get at least some of their news from such sources as “The Daily Show.”
“Kids want something to laugh at,” said Vaughan, who will intern at The Onion in New York next summer. “Satire can get at deeper truths than hard news can.”
Vaughan enlisted the guidance of journalism instructor Scott Winter, rounded up a staff of about 60 students and then, on Nov. 28, appealed to the UNL Publications Board for its affiliation and a small amount of money in start-up funds.
Besides the financial perks, affiliation with the board would allow for better production and distribution, Vaughan said, and would help establish the Dailyer Nebraskan as a credible publication.
Both Vaughan and Winter say they were taken aback when the board voted 4-3 against affiliating with the Dailyer Nebraskan.
“I find it ridiculous,” Vaughan said. “We’re being told that we can’t start a paper to express our voices.”
Sophomore Eric Hamilton, Publications Board chairman, said he has no intention of snuffing out student speech. Rather, Hamilton said, he voted no because of NU Board of Regents guidelines for student press that say student-produced journalism must exhibit truthfulness, accuracy, objectivity and fairness, and must take pains not to damage a person’s reputation.
Because of its satirical nature, the Dailyer Nebraskan wouldn’t be able to uphold those values, Hamilton said.
“This is absolutely not a freedom of speech issue,” he said. “We’re certainly not banning them from UNL.
“We’re not opposing their efforts for any reason other than conflicts in our bylaws and guidelines for the student press. … My interpretation of those guidelines is a satirical publication would not fit in.”
But Vaughan and his supporters say the regents guidelines don’t apply to satire.
“A satirical newspaper can’t exist with hard-edged guidelines,” said Derek Hester, a UNL junior and Publications Board member who voted in support of affiliating with the Dailyer Nebraskan.
Echoed Winter: “Inherently, a satirical newspaper goes by a different code.”
Still, Hamilton said his vote doesn’t indicate he wants to see the Dailyer Nebraskan fail — only that its success may have to come without an official relationship with the Publications Board.
But he indicated he’d be open to changing his vote, which he’ll get the chance to do Dec. 12 when Vaughan re-appeals to the Publications Board.
This time, Vaughan will present an official business plan, samples of stories that might appear in the Dailyer Nebraskan and a mission statement, code of conduct and other documents Winter says show he is serious about his work.
Vaughan also is hopeful all nine voting members of the Publications Board will attend the meeting.
He’s certainly found support on campus: A Facebook group called “Approve the Dailyer Nebraskan” boasts nearly 800 members, and even the Daily Nebraskan’s editorial board has voiced its support.
The two papers would be different enough that they aren’t likely to compete for readers, said Daily Nebraskan Editor-in-Chief Josh Swartzlander.
In fact, a little competition might even push reporters to be better, Swartzlander said.
“I think they deserve a shot.”
Reach Melissa Lee at 473-2682 or email@example.com.