The Importance of Printing Satire

“Satire,” according to the Oxford Dictionary, is “the use of humor, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule to expose and criticize people’s stupidity or immoral behavior, particularly in the context of contemporary politics and other topical issues.”

The ancient genre of satire, which in written records dates as far back as 500 B.C., remains one of the most powerful tools we can use to critique the society we live in.

The Exponent’s use of satire has varied over the years, at times resulting in negative consequences due to poor editorial judgment. Perhaps too often, our paper elected to completely expunge the genre from its pages.

But satire is a valuable written tradition we should utilize on a regular basis, so last year the Exponent began publishing a biweekly page called “The Sugarbeet.” We model this satire page after our nation’s most widely-known satire publication, “The Onion.”

To distinguish the Sugarbeet from the rest of the paper, we have always printed it upside-down, but to this day, even some members of our staff think this calculated symbol is a printing error. We believe our readers are intelligent enough to identify satire when they read it, so from now on we will print the Sugarbeet right-side-up like the rest of the paper.

Writing and publishing satire is inherently risky and likely to irritate, anger and/or disturb some readers. Including the Sugarbeet alongside straightforward, traditional journalism increases this risk. We accept this, believing it benefits our community to print critical commentary questioning the issues and decisions within our community. Rather than provide a definitive stance on these issues, we aim to call attention to them and stimulate discussion around them.

To achieve this goal, articles in the Sugarbeet often falsely quote public figures or non-existent people and invent or exaggerate events.

You, our readers, serve an important role in keeping us honest and thoughtful as we produce our weekly content. I encourage you to share your reactions to our articles with us — especially when it comes to the Sugarbeet.

At the Exponent, we admit to having little or no formal journalism training. However, we take our job quite seriously, as we provide perhaps the most public venue for students to express their opinions on MSU’s campus. We work hard to address important issues which we believe should not pass under students’ radar unnoticed and uncritiqued. The Sugarbeet does not simply provide a venue for fabricated, low-brow humor. Sugarbeet articles earn their place in the Exponent through strong research and on-point commentary made stronger through the lens of satire.

Often, the line between truth and satire is almost invisibly thin — in those instances, we must apply our critical thinking skills, skills we develop and refine as we continue our educations.

And every once in a while, we might even allow ourselves to laugh.

Email your thoughts to letters@exponent.montana.edu or stop by our office in SUB 366 to tell us in person.