Faux news policy: Hospital, virginity, geese, gays, parking

I’ve done five faux (fake) news articles here on Locally Grown since last October, three of them (and part of a 4th) satirical. How can one tell a fake piece?

  • I put them into a blog category called FN and tagged them with the word FN. FN, of course, stands for Faux News, which is explained in the 6th paragraph of our About page.

  • I write them in the style of a traditional news story. All other blog posts here are written in the first-person, and in a conversational style common to most blogs.

Why not be more obvious about it? The Wikipedia definition of satire says, in part, that “… the purpose of satire is not primarily humour but criticism of an event, an individual or a group in a clever manner.”

So in my satirical pieces, I’m trying to get people to think, to wonder if it’s really true, to re-read and look deeper. I’m trying to be clever (quite possibly not always successfully) to help get my point across. Being too obvious undermines that.

In my most recent post about cigarettes, it’s nearly all false. The Hospital does not plan nor has it ever considered selling cigarettes at the gift shop. The people quoted don’t exist: Ken Stapek, Gina Lundblad, Brett Schlichting, Scott Crow, Jennifer Drenckhahn, Lance Hvistendahl, Diane Berthelsen. No, they’re not hiring a tobacco attorney. No, the school board will not be considering the issue at an upcoming meeting. Yes, the municipal liquor store does sell cigarettes.

To give the piece more of an air of credibility, I did match the real first names of some people with the real last names of other people associated with organizations mentioned. My thinking was that that would prevent any confusion arising from web searches on real first and last names. My wife pointed out to me that many (most?) citizens who aren’t as involved as I am in local public affairs won’t get that and will just assume that they’re real people. So that’s something I won’t do again, unless I get someone’s permission to use a fake quote with their name attached like Colleen Hollinger-Petters did here.

In my defense, I think the assertions made by the fake people in the fake hospital piece are outrageous to the point of absurdity, and that I’ve not done any damage to any person’s or organization’s reputation. Here’s what I essentially had them say:

  • Funds are needed for hospital prevention programs so let’s make money off addicted smokers.

  • Cancer-related illnesses are declining and that hurts our hospital revenue so we really do need more smokers out there, so that there’s more sick people, so that we stay in business, so that we provide good jobs.

  • High schoolers smoke and the school district is short on cash so let’s sell tobacco to students who are 18 and use the money for drug prevention.

Over-the-top, I’d say. But to clear up any confusion on past FN news pieces, I’ve gone back and edited the headlines with the prefix: Fake News.

I’m trying to have fun with Locally Grown, while at same time, have it be a force for betterment in our community. I’m also willing to learn, to consider critical feedback, and to respond to it with civility. Comments appreciated, either attached here (preferred) or via our Contact Us form.


  1. Tracy Davis said:

    “No humor please, we’re Lutherans.”

    January 21, 2007
  2. Nick Benson said:

    Keep it up Griff.

    (Not sarcastic)

    January 21, 2007
  3. Lance Heisler (my real name) said:

    Seems to me it isnt any more fake than what I read in the newspaper most days, and those folks dont do anything to warn us.

    January 22, 2007
  4. Gina Washburn said:

    Griff – The next time you want my opinion, just talk to me. Satire, which operates in the absence of fact, is mere diatribe.

    January 23, 2007
  5. Griff Wigley said:

    Gina, I would like your opinion! Hop over to the discussion about cigarettes at:

    and chime in with your thoughts (as a hospital board member) about the City of Northfield selling cigarettes to the public.

    So far, I’ve only heard Al Roder (on our soon-be-published podcast) voicing support for it.

    January 23, 2007
  6. Bill Ostrem said:

    As someone who was nearly (actually?) fooled by the goose piece, labeling the satire makes sense. Since the rest of the site is “straight,” it would be easy to be fooled, esp. if you were an outsider and esp. since Griff writes so realistically! If the entire site were Onion-like satire, or if there were a separate section that regularly featured satire, this wouldn’t be necessary.

    This is the same reason that a newspaper would place a satirical piece appropriately–not on the front page.

    January 30, 2007
  7. Griff Wigley said:

    Bill, I’d argue that this blog is like more akin to the editorial, commentary and letters to the editor section of the paper than the front page. We do mix in a few newsy blurbs, it’s true.

    But on the commentary page of the newspaper, a satire piece would not be labeled as such to distinguish it from other commentary pieces.

    A memorable Garrison Keillor essay in Time mag, 1995:

    Minnesota’s Sensible Plan

    It’s true, I’ve written my FN pieces here as if they were news stories, not essays or normal blog posts. Since we’re NOT a news blog, that’s part of the spoof. And if newcomers don’t know this, that would seem to be okay, as long as I’m not being malicious.

    But I could be wrong. Thanks for reading and commenting.

    January 30, 2007
  8. […] Our revamp has prompted me to go back and edit my faux news posts since I started doing them in October, 2006, fixing the category assigned to each. So now if you want too see them all (a couple dozen or so), just click the Faux news category wherever it appears (top banner, sidebar, blog post footer). (continued) My all-time favorite? Northfield Hospital board opts for cigarette revenue. I got in trouble for that one and learned from my mistakes which I later blogged about in a post titled Faux news policy: Hospital, virginity, geese, gays, parking. […]

    January 26, 2009

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