By Stan Syde
LEWISVILLE — The Lewisville Texan Journal has announced it won’t be posting any April Fools stories this year, during the coronavirus pandemic.
With 2020, a yearly tradition going back at least a decade will come to an end.
Typically, each April 1, The Lewisville Texan Journal staff publish tongue-in-cheek fake stories to get a chuckle from all but the thickest of readers. Publisher Steve Southwell said he just didn’t have it in him this year.
“Look, we’ve had our fun in the past, but holy shit – this whole year is like one continuous April Fools joke we keep wanting to be let in on. Every day, you turn on the news, and it’s like ‘Seriously, WTF?’,” Southwell said.
“It’s gotten to where you can’t even have satire anymore. Real life is so f***ing crazy that no matter what you write, it will be true by next week. Even Saturday Night Live doesn’t know what to lampoon anymore.”
In the past, LTJ’s posts have brought controversy, such as the 2015 attempt by the paper at “flipping the script” and making a statement about the difficulties that transgender students face in schools. While grandstanding politicians sought to make their problems tougher, LTJ posted a story about all bathrooms at schools being made gender-neutral, with other students needing to be the ones to make special arrangements if they objected.
Like most of LTJ’s April Fools stories, the clues were obvious and the intent was good, but many were not amused. Lewisville ISD released Southwell’s personal cell phone number, and encouraged people to call and complain.
“Outrage is currency these days,” Southwell said. “People are conditioned to be offended, and we think that prevented many from seeing the true message.”
Nevertheless, that’s the only April Fools story LTJ ever took down — a decision that Southwell stands by.
Another of LTJ’s stories, prior to the Supreme Court ruling legalizing same-sex marriage nationwide, claimed that it was lawful on a certain part of Lewisville Lake due to maritime law and a convoluted back story. The story claimed that many couples were flocking to the lake for ceremonies that could only be officiated by a ship’s captain, and resulted in many phone calls to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which manages the lake.
“We were pleased when that story sort of came true,” Southwell said.
Several years ago when Lewisville was in the process of repainting its southern zone water tower, which had been draped in a tarp for an extended period of time, LTJ wrote that the FDA was requiring water towers to carry nutrition labels. A photoshopped image showed the water tower with a nutrition label showing 0 calories, and that the tank held millions of servings.
That story elicited a cheerful response from the FDA on its Twitter page. Some residents later told LTJ they got in their cars to drive down to the water tower and check it out.
Many a Lewisville resident, if they remembered that it was April 1, would eagerly anticipate each year’s batch of tomfoolery. Several of them messaged LTJ to inquire about this year’s plans.
“I love it when you posted that story about LLELA bringing in super dangerous hippos to repopulate them in the area,” Jan Furgal said. “Hippoqueros! What in the heck were you smoking when you wrote these? Whatever it was, I want some.”
Southwell said he tried to think of something to make fun of this year, but with toilet paper in short supply, a shitstorm didn’t sound like a good idea.
“I just can’t come up with anything that isn’t coronavirus related,” Southwell said. “Can you imagine the lynch mob that will form up as the death toll continues to rise?”
“It doesn’t matter what we do to make fun of the situation — people who want to be offended will make it about themselves or their family members, and go online to try to raise outrage about this evil website making fun of them.”
It is unclear what the plan is going forward. Southwell cut the interview short when a mask-wearing UPS delivery driver showed up with a crate of fireworks, two drones, a large loudspeaker and several crates labeled “Acme.”
“What will we do?” Southwell repeated. “Well, it’s definitely not some enormous borderline-illegal ear-splitting vomit-inducing city-wide prank that will result in 911 lines being tied up. No sir, it won’t be that. If you want to read some bullshit, go check out the Old Town Dirt Pile.”