On Wednesday, April 1, 2009, we published an entire newspaper filled with April Fools’ Day articles. It was a lot of fun but a ton of work, especially for the real reporters, who had to resist all their journalistic instincts about veracity and integrity and other pesky standards that gossip columnists like me don’t bother ourselves with. In those days I was only writing my weekly column, so I had a blast. April Fools’ Day dovetailed perfectly with my M.O., which is light on the fact checking, heavy on the embellishment.
When Wednesday, April 1, 2015, rolled around, we had too much going on at the newspaper to put out a full April Fools’ Day issue, and it doesn’t really work if some stories are fact and some are fiction (a reality that has become even more evident over the past few years as journalistic principles once considered mainstream are challenged by a daily torrent of inflammatory headlines bearing no relation to anything resembling truth. But I digress.)
On Wednesday, April 1, 2020, an April Fools’ Day newspaper was not only unnecessary, anything we might have dreamed up would have seemed pathetic in comparison to the bona fide events unfolding around us in the form of the pandemic. The very fact that millions of students across the country (and world) were not in classrooms was surreal beyond the scope of things most of us had ever imagined. Had one of us written that as an April Fools’ Day story in 2015, it would have been instantly clear that it was a spoof. Just a few years later, it wasn’t.
From 2009-2015 I kept a little list of stories I might tell in a future April Fools’ Day column — a list I revisited recently. And you know what? None of it is germane or remotely clever anymore. Take my Fourth of July fireworks display “fight fire with fire” idea. That might have been tolerated in 2011, but at any point after 2014 it would have been tactless and unpardonable, even as — especially as — a joke. And my schtick where I was going to talk about moving the Spring Creek Bridge to the top of Flagg Mountain where the controversial hut once perched as a gesture of building bridges of understanding between Mazama and Winthrop? Huh?
I’m not saying we shouldn’t joke about things; after all, humor is one of the things that helps us process and endure all the unexpected stuff life flings our way. But I think I’m discontinuing the April Fools’ Day story list (although who knows — we have four more years until the next time April Fools’ Day falls on a newspaper publish date). With truth stranger than fiction these past couple of years, I think it’s reasonable to lay off on the hoaxes for a while.