As a former copy editor at the Telegraph-Journal, Shauna Chase found humour in the stories published in the Irving-owned newspaper.
“I found a lot of [the stories] pretty funny so it was easy to joke about,” Chase said in an email to The Aquinian.
“For example, the court stories seemed to always be about drunk drivers, so I wrote our court stories to be exaggerated versions of those. And the Irving papers often take a horrible occurrence or event and try to spin it positively, so our top story was that Reversing Falls now glows in the dark thanks to pulp and paper mill waste.”
Chase graduated from St. Thomas University in 2008 and in 2014 she co-founded the satirical news site The Manatee which “bring[s] Atlantic Canada’s dark underbelly to light” and “[offers] fiction, critical observations of popular culture and current events.”
About four months ago, another STU grad and featured contributor of The Manatee, Brandon Hicks, pitched the idea of creating a physical newspaper to Chase.
Chase was more than happy to implement Hicks’ idea.
“I honestly just thought it would be fun and we all wanted to offer something different for our loyal Manatee fans and something kind of special that people could read and laugh at besides just our usual online news,” Chase said.
“We also wanted to reach a bit of a different audience with it – I think there are still some people out there who’d rather hold something in their hands and read it instead of staring at a screen.”
The parody newspaper titled The Times & Gleaner-Journal is similar to the Telegraph-Journal because it includes the same sections like Sports, Arts and Business. Although the content might seem familiar, it’s entirely different from typical stories published in the Brunswick News papers.
“The difference is that all the content is original satirical stories and illustrations about New Brunswick and focuses heavily on Saint John, because that’s where the TJ is headquartered,” Chase said.
“It’s still The Manatee, just in a different format and look and using the paper as a framework for what we hope is funny content.”
Chase’s favourite story to write for the parody newspaper is titled “French, English populations establish first contact.”
The story follows a “forbidden” love between a French man and an English woman at a English-only Superstore in Fredericton and how their love brings the two populations together.
“It’s sort of joking about how in New Brunswick, if you read the news, it’s made out to seem like there’s a massive divide between French and English people and they hate each other or at least avoid interacting at all,” she said. “It sounds dumb and I’m obviously a bit biased, but I think it’s funny.”
Chase said finding a printing company was the hardest part of creating a physical version of The Manatee because many printers turned the team down due to “the nature of the content,” which pushed the publication date back again and again.
“I think, not only did they find the comedy a little ‘off colour’ – which it is – but there’s a huge fear of the Irvings here in the Maritimes,” Chase said.
“Since Brunswick News is Irving-owned and our paper was a [Brunswick News Inc.] parody, the printing companies we were dealing with didn’t want to risk any kind of retribution from the Irvings.”
Although Chase wanted to give their business to a Maritime company, the team found a printing company in Ontario that printed their paper “no questions asked.”
The Times & Gleaner-Journal was officially published mid-October.
The team printed 2,000 copies and Chase is hoping they’ll sell out.
“As of right now it’s a one-time thing, but if we actually sold out and made a profit on the papers, maybe we’d consider doing something like this again.”
Copies of The Times & Gleaner-Journal are available on The Manatee’s online store for $4.