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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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The Mugdown reveals seniors’ identities

The Mugdown seniors

One year and more than 500,000 hits on their website later, the seniors of The Mugdown — an anonymous satirical student-run newspaper — released their names to the public via social media.
Called “Senior Coming Out Day,” The Mugdown’s reveal came just days after it caused a stir  on campus after planting controversial yard signs about the relationship between the Corps of Cadets and fraternities. With almost 3,000 followers on Twitter, the outlet has developed an online following through “stunts” like the yard signs and satirical articles with headlines like, “Best Friends Accidentally Walk Under Century Tree Together, Now Gay.” Now, it plans to distribute its first print issue by the end of the semester.

The Wednesday reveal strategically left out who was associated with each of the writers’ aliases. According to The Mugdown’s six founders, the aliases serve as a second layer of protection.

If someone were to find out the names of The Mugdown writers, this person would still not be able to identify the source of a particular article, said Jamie Bennett, founder and math senior.

Shelbi Polk, founder and international studies senior, said the anonymity allows The Mugdown the freedom to effectively make campus evaluate itself.

“My teacher in high school would always say, ‘It’s your best friend and your worst enemy who will tell you the truth about yourself,’” Polk said. “And I think that’s kind of what we want to be, the best friend who helps A&M laugh at itself sometimes, because we have an amazing university and a really, really special place, but I think it’s healthy to look at the truth humorously sometimes.”

Polk said The Mugdown intends to reveal the names of its graduates every year, but the decision to release an alias will remain up to the writers.

“I know some people will want to be able to claim their work and claim specific articles and stunts, and others may not want their name associated with specific articles,” Polk said. “I’m very proud of my work, I think it was all done in good taste, but I’ll probably wait for everything to die down.”

By the founders’ account, anonymity allows The Mugdown the ability to direct the reader’s attention away from the writer and toward the article’s message.

“It’s not about us trying to get the attention or glory, but it’s more about us trying to create something of value,” said William French, one of the founders and management senior.

Anonymity also serves a more practical purpose. Like other writers at The Mugdown, Polk said she has written about organizations she is in and about people she knows. She said she draws the line at jokes she would not say in front of the people she writes about, but the fact remains that she would be approached by subjects of articles if they knew she wrote them.

“We’ve actually had writers whose names have leaked further than they meant them to and were contacted by the subject of their own articles,” Polk said. “It was just a really awkward situation.”

The Mugdown founders said other awkward situations could arise without the protection of anonymity.  

“If you happen to write a friend’s name in there, or a friend might come up to you and say, ‘Hey could you write me into the next article?’ And when you are anonymous, they won’t keep asking you to put their name into the next article,” French said. “It gives you more freedom for that.”

Founder and business honors senior Lucas Williamson said the reveal allowed him to to have a fuller conversation about The Mugdown.

“I am a horrible secret keeper, and if I haven’t spoiled it, friends and some teachers have, so today was rather anticlimactic,” Williamson said. “On the whole, the response is almost always positive. I’ve had people be like, ‘Oh my gosh it’s like meeting a campus celebrity,’ but really I just love the opportunity to talk about this organization.”

The founders said by nature satire can be offensive, but Benjamin Gothman, editor-in-chief and biology senior, said four editors review an article before it is published under The Mugdown’s name.

Gothman also said some subjects are out of bounds for The Mugdown, namely Muster, Silver Taps and the Bonfire Memorial, among other topics.

“We all came together to The Mugdown out of a place of love for Texas A&M,” Gothman said. “We’re all Aggies and we all want to be the first to laugh at ourselves in that sense. And so we definitely knew going into it there were going to be certain topics that were [not appropriate] for parody because they were not going to promote discussion or do anything to better the community of Texas A&M.”
As the founders prepare to graduate and go their separate ways, Polk said there is no way to ensure the next wave of editors will adhere to founder’s guidelines, but she believes The Mugdown is in good hands.

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