There was a time, not that long ago, when newspapers and other media outlets would partake in the age-old tradition of posting April Fools' Day stories. The fake articles would be humorous in nature and usually walk a fine line between ludricrous and almost believable, often in the service of satire. They would go up in the morning and be taken down by noon. Some readers would be duped, but if they were discerning enough, they would be in on the joke by the second or third paragraph. Puzzle solved.
My guess is there will be very few April Fools' stories today. Not only does the current health crisis leave little tolerance for misinformation — no matter how good-natured — the rise and misuse of the term “fake news” since a certain buzzkill took office in the U.S. has turned the prospect of purposely trying to pull one over on readers an act of self-sabotage.
So, we’re not going to do one at the Courier this year. But we will celebrate some of our past April Fools' triumphs, which always followed this strict criteria:
- Be about a new city government initiative that sounds plausible but will also surely enrage readers
- Gradually reveal itself to be more and more unbelievable.
- That’s about it.
Here are some of our favourites.
In craft-beer-crazy Vancouver, it’s almost conceivable that the school board would approve a pilot project for a craft beer brewing course at several local high schools.
This story featured the return of Pacific Northwest brewmaster “Caleb Colten,” the brainchild behind fledgling Craft Fermentation Sciences program. Incidentally, in the photos, that’s the Tyee’s Christopher Cheung as Grade 11 Van Tech student Kennedy Yeung and myself as Caleb Colton.
Another craft beer-related story and the debut of Caleb Colton, “considered the bad boy of the Pacific Northwest’s craft brewing and artisanal fermentation scene, [who] is credited with all but inventing Portland’s bespoke schnapps and mulled wine craze when he opened The Rusty Gullet in 2011.”
This one got a lot of traction. A co-worker heard two men on the bus complaining about the city’s supposed decision to get into the brewing business, and the editor at the time of our company’s beer magazine The Growler, emailed me asking if I had contact information for Caleb Colten, only to email me two minutes later…. “Oh never mind. You got me!”
Arguably our most memorable and popular April Fools' story concerned city hall’s controversial new “Goating Green” program aimed at reducing carbon emissions by doing away with lawn mowers and employing the help of Tony, “a striking four-year-old African pygmy goat” to keep the lawn at city hall trimmed. The story was so successful that the mayor’s assistant at the time, Kevin Quinlan, recounted getting harassed year after year by a concerned citizen and animal lover demanding that the city formally denounce the story and publicly say “there is no goat at city hall.”
The story was also oddly prescient in terms of government polices as evidenced by this recent Georgia Straight article, which can be read HERE.
On top of that, a few years after the story came out, my sister, who had returned from living in New Zealand, and I were walking past city hall when she started to survey the grounds intently.
“What are you looking for?” I asked.
“The goat,” she said in all seriousness. “Apparently, there’s a goat that mows the lawn here.”
I had never been more proud in my life.