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Q&A: Burgeoning publication mines laughs

Creator of satirical site speaks out on the next step for The Mugdown

Published: Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Updated: Tuesday, February 18, 2014 22:02

Ben

David Cohen

Benjamin Gotham, junior biology major, is the founder and editor-in-chief of The Mugdown, a new online satirical publication.

David Cohen, lifestyles reporter, sits down with Benjamin Gothman, junior biology major and editor-in-chief of
The Mugdown, a new satirical website.

THE BATTALION: Why did you start The Mugdown?
Gothman: We feel that there’s a niche here at A&M that we’d like to fill. I think our goal is very different from all other publications on campus. Whereas they might be looking to report on local news, we’re looking to have people stop and think about the issues.

THE BATTALION: How did you get the idea for this?
Gothman: We all realized that we didn’t have a satirical newspaper here at A&M and that it could be very popular. We wanted a different spin on the many voices we already have, and the more we thought about it the more we thought we could actually do it. This was all in the works for just under a month. Once the ball got rolling, really, it became much more concrete.

THE BATTALION: How have you learned from people who have previously attempted to start and maintain a satirical publication?
Gothman: We got advice from as many people as we could. We talked to several satirical newspapers at other universities, for example, The Travesty at UT. Their biggest advice was for us to stay consistent and to make sure that we stay within the topic. What makes these stories popular is when they relate to the readers.

THE BATTALION: How much of your intent is comedic and how much of it is to report the news?
Gothman: Finding that balance is something that we’ve definitely been working on. Right now, since it’s our first three weeks, it’s been largely comedic, but moving forward we’d like to transition to getting at harder-hitting issues.

THE BATTALION: How do you connect with the student body and the culture of A&M?
Gothman: We all really love A&M, so before we started we wanted to make sure we appropriately represented of all our traditions. One of the things that we all agreed on is that A&M takes itself very seriously — which can be both its best and most ridiculous quality — so that’s one of our big inspirations. We wanted to be the first to make fun of ourselves, in a sense. When we talk about a topic, it’s not so much the specific figure that we mention, but rather the overall issue.

THE BATTALION: How do you plan on having people take you seriously?
Gothman: We’re working on becoming a more present figure on campus. This becomes extremely difficult, since we want to stay anonymous. It’s hard to be public when at the same time you’re trying to stay hidden. From here on out, we would like to get more consistent and have a better structure by releasing articles more often than we do now.

THE BATTALION: How does your staff relate to the stories as they write them?
Gothman: One thing that makes me very proud of our writers is that they’re very plugged in here at campus. Everyone is involved in various organizations, so they all have a very deep understanding of our community. They all have a knowledge of A&M history that far outstrips my own, and it’s been really fun to work with them.

THE BATTALION: How do you and your staff personally deal with the consequences of what you write?
Gothman: It’s been very interesting to see [people’s] reactions, which to this point have been overwhelmingly positive, except for the people that are mad to learn that Coca-Cola is in fact not coming to campus. So, it’s been very fun. At the end of the day, we like to meet and talk about all the things we’ve heard about our work.

THE BATTALION: How do you overcome the challenge of not being able to figure out what people want to hear about, since you must remain anonymous?
Gothman: Firstly, our connection to many of the organizations in campus helps out a lot. We often get a lot of feedback without people realizing it. The other way has been through the internet. Being anonymous there is a lot simpler. We can receive a lot of comments there in that sense. Even though we don’t really have a public presence, we still manage.

THE BATTALION: What’s next for The Mugdown?
Gothman: In the immediate future, we want to become increasingly relevant with events happening around campus. We’re taking it day by day, but we’re looking at the pros and cons of becoming a student organization. We’ve talked to several people as to what that process would look like due to the nature of our group. As far as expansion goes, we’ll have to reconsider some of our policies in the future, but the anonymity of our writers will more than likely remain throughout. We would like to have more fan-created content. 

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