Recent rumors of Donald Trump speaking at commencement and students being injured by a shuttle bus’ abrupt stop are not the result of bonafide news stories, but the work of a new satirical news site, The RedHawkion.
RedHawkion articles started showing up on social media at the start of the spring semester. Although the satirical news stories often parody aspects of life at Montclair State, the website states that it is “in no way affiliated with [Montclair State].”
The site’s prerogative is to create clever and entertaining stories that poke fun at the school in general, and every single story is completely and utterly untrue.
Some of the headlines on the site include “Spring 2016 Graduate-to-Be Contracts Senioritis — Given 6 Months to Live” and “Dorm Undergoes Surprise Fire Drill — Hundreds Mildly Inconvenienced.”
Despite all the buzz and rising popularity, the creator of the website has not spoken about the site publicly until now.
On a sunny but brisk afternoon, the creator of
The RedHawkion agreed to meet on campus to share the story behind the origin of the satirical website. The creator’s one condition was that he remain anonymous.
According to the information he provided, The RedHawkion is run by a current undergraduate male student at Montclair State. His older brother and a friend, both non-Montclair State students, are the only other authors on the site. The RedHawkion administrator is currently studying in a field related to film and television.
The student behind the site has chosen to remain anonymous because, in his words, “I wanted to see how the site would grow if I remained anonymous, and also [out of] a bit of fear of the administration. Surprisingly, they’ve been really cool with it.” With this positive feedback, the creator says the site may not stay anonymous in the future.
Over winter break, the Montclair State student and his brother came up with the idea on their long drive to a ski trip. The student behind the site wanted to do something creative that he could add to his portfolio and one day show potential employers.
The RedHawkion website was created in January once the student returned to the university for the spring semester.
The RedHawkion administrator also claimed that the title does not poke fun at “The Montclarion,” but rather mimics the famous satirical news source “The Onion.” “It’s something fun to do and we have something to make fun of, but it’s not blasting the school or making fun of ‘The Montclarion.’ That’s why we chose the name. It’s like an ‘Onion’ for Montclair [State].”
The site’s creator understands why the title may also lead to confusion among students, who have sometimes mistaken the parody articles for actual reports of campus situations. So far, The RedHawkion has pulled two stories down from its site, although the creator said these removals were not due to negative responses from the administration.
The first article was posted on Jan. 29 regarding Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaking at the 2016 Commencement ceremony.
Student Alyssa LaMedica, an English major, was fooled by the story. “Usually, the articles from [The] RedHawkion use provocative titles designed to capture your attention right away. The problem is, it almost always works. When I saw the Trump article, I was absolutely dumbfounded. I had read nearly half of the article before realizing that it was a hoax and that I had fallen victim, yet again, to The RedHawkion.”
LaMedica is not alone. The story spread quickly on Facebook. One user shared the story and commented above the post, “I will scream. President Cole. With everything in me. Please just no. I’m hoping this is a joke.” To be respectful of the school’s reputation, The RedHawkion took the article off of its site.
Since the Trump commencement article was removed, another story has been taken down from The RedHawkion site. Last Tuesday, the article titled “Shuttle Bus Driver Slams on Breaks, Seven Dead,” also gained a lot of attention. This article was written by a new author to the site, John Griffin.
A senior at Montclair State studying History, Griffin had only been writing for the satirical news source for a few days. He shared that his only contact with The RedHawkion was via email. The bus story was the second article he had published.
After the story was posted to The RedHawkion Facebook page, it blew up. “When I was checking the stats on it, the viewers were going up by like 20 people every time I was refreshing it,” Griffin said. By Wednesday afternoon, the article was removed from the site because many students and even parents believed the bus accident was real.
Due to creative differences, Griffin no longer writes for the site. He believes his story wasn’t misleading, and the readers were at fault if they didn’t realize the story was made up. “The only reason I wrote the bus article [was because] I’ve been on the shuttle a few times and it’s packed. Everybody’s standing up, you get to a red light, the driver slams on the breaks and people fall forward,” said Griffin. “I thought a lot of people could relate to that. I just said, ‘How can I make that more ridiculous?’”
While The RedHawkion
did like Griffin’s article and has nothing against the story, a lot of the controversy surrounding the article was due to the fact that people were just reading the piece’s shocking headline, sharing it with others and not actually clicking the link to realize the story and the site were fake. The RedHawkion also wanted to prevent the school from putting out a disclaimer regarding the shuttle bus story.
The RedHawkion loves to see people’s reactions to their made up stories, but also encourages readers to actually click on the link and be intrigued to read an article. “Part of the fun is seeing people believe it’s real, but I’d really like to see people click on the link,” The RedHawkion creator said.
The RedHawkion’s ultimate goal is to pick college-related stories and make them fun and interesting. Currently, all three contributors write under the pen name of “Secret Talons” and would love more writers for the site. The RedHawkion definitely considers the possibility of holding creative meetings on campus for future writers, stating that it would help give the site more legitimacy.