A satirical news website has become wildly popular in Maine, but not everyone is in on the joke.
New Maine News has duped journalists and even gotten one teen in trouble with the law.
"I’m not out to trick anybody, just out to make people laugh," said its founder, and sole author, Seth Macy. He started the site from his home office in Rockland, Maine. Since October, New Maine News has received more than one million page views.
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"It’s way bigger than I ever expected it to be," said Macy. "Mainers are just thirsty for satire I guess."
The headlines read like The Onion, but hit close to home: "LL Bean’s New Return Policy Is a Huge Blow for Millionaire Cheapskates," and "Linguists Impressed to Find Mainers Have Over 70 Swear Words for Snow" are some of the more popular articles. Macy says the trick to writing good satire is basing it on real quirks of Maine life.
"A really good satire article has to maybe expose a truth that you didn't know was there," he said. "It's not outside the realm of possibility."
Macy's posts are so spot on that they have even tricked real journalists. A few months ago, two ESPN radio hosts cited his story about a basketball game called off after the ball got stuck in a wood stove. The hosts presented it as a real sports story from Maine.
"I couldn’t believe it," said Macy. “It's like c'mon… you guys are professionals."
Last week, the Oakland Maine Police Department wrote on their Facebook page that a teen driver was pulled over for spinning his truck tires at an officer. The driver defiantly told the officer he couldn’t do anything about it, because the Maine Supreme Court recently ruled rubber marks are constitutionally protected free speech, pointing to an article on New Maine News.
"You don't have to read much past the headline before you realize that the author is joking," the Oakland officer wrote. "I actually got a good laugh out of it. Explaining the concept of satire was probably the educational highlight of that young man's morning."
Macy felt a little bit guilty about that one.
"I actually contacted the Oakland Police Department, I was like, I'll pay this kid's fine. I feel pretty bad. They said don't worry, we just let him off with a warning," he said.
Macy’s approach to comedy has generated a serious following on social media, and made New Maine News one of the most popular new websites in the state – no kidding.
But don’t call it "fake news." Macy is quick to point the difference between satire and the new trend of false stories presented as fact. He thinks it's obvious that his stories are too absurd to be true – and if you fall for it, the joke is on you.