Boris Tsang / Sun Photography Editor

CU Nooz aims to poke fun and comment on campus occurrences, a mission that they have continued to pursue despite COVID-19 changes to Cornell.

October 27, 2020

Cornell’s Very Own ‘The Onion’: CU Nooz Dishes Satire

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“Sorry, Vet Students: The Vet School Just Got Moved 40 Miles Further East.”

“New Human Development Course To Be Taught On How To Steal A Baby.”

Fortunately for vet students and unfortunately for baby thieves, these headlines are not the latest in Cornell current events — they can be found on CU Nooz, Cornell’s fictional satirical online publication.

Taking inspiration from The Onion, CU Nooz’s brand of satire focuses on “observational stuff that everybody sort of knows but nobody really articulates,” according to Hannah Biener ’21, CU Nooz co-editor in chief.

Calling it “the unspoken truth,” Biener explained how CU Nooz develops its headlines.

“[Satire] can be positive, like something we all share and take joy in sharing,” Biener said. “[But it can also be] negative … people have these sort of hidden criticisms of the administration or things that really do need addressing that people might whisper, but don’t exactly talk openly about.”

Biener added one example from a couple of years ago, when Cornell announced that as part of an initiative to address mental health, they were adding three new mental health counselors.

“The article I wrote was ‘mental health win — three counselors added to serve a population of 30,000,” she recalled. “It was such a crazy thing, [Cornell] really touted it as a success.”

Co-editor in chief Trevor Davis ’21, known for running for Student Assembly president in 2019, described how campus climate influences CU Nooz’s editorial decisions.

“There’ll be a big event, like problems with the S.A. election or COVID-19 problems or something, and then if that happens we’ll try to hurry up and write something really quickly about it,” Davis said. “I think that’s sort of the main objective of satire, is to try to say something if you can.”

The club is currently in its third stage of recruitment, which began at the beginning of October. It usually gets between 30 to 65 applications every year, and accepts four to five people.

Davis said one reason for the stiff competition is that the club doesn’t require a major time commitment and is something many students are interested in doing. “I think we’re fortunate in the fact that a lot of people feel like they’re able to contribute and that leads to a lot of really good articles,” he said.

The club usually consists of around six to eight writers, depending on recruitment, with two editors-in-chief, two managing editors and three or four copy editors.

Around 100 to 200 people typically like or comment on the average CU Nooz Facebook post, but the writers conceded that readers often skim the headlines without engaging with the article.

“We’re happy to write the articles even though the headline is probably the big key to the delivery of the joke,” Davis said.

CU Nooz has grown since its beginning in 2012, driven by more diverse writers and editorial staff.

“We’re kind of going off in like some bold new direction now, so that is fun for us,” Davis said. “Our old editor-in-chief used to say it used to be all white men.”

Biener cited the growth of the website Reductress, a female-led satirical publication, as a model for CU Nooz’s work.

“It was filling a niche that something like The Onion, which was really popular for many years, just wasn’t exactly hitting all of the points that a female-led publication like Reductress was,” Biener said.

During the pandemic, CU Nooz headlines have featured many COVID-19 and Zoom-related topics.

Davis explained that “[CU Nooz was] just reacting to the news. Often that news happens to be COVID-19-related because of just the time period we’re in, but whatever it is, we want to have something to say about it to give people some enjoyment about whatever might be out there.”

“I think it’s just about continuing to highlight the positives, the idiosyncrasies about the pandemic. And just, yeah, bringing a smile to people’s faces,” Biener added.