Not Nec­es­sar­ily the News

The Star (St. Lucia) - - LOCAL -

Al­most a year ago to the date, Saint Lu­cians woke up to this head­line plas­tered on their var­i­ous so­cial me­dia time­lines and feeds: “NSA flags St Lu­cia for ter­ror­ist am­bi­tions.’ What?! Had we joined the likes of Is­rael as coun­tries tar­geted by the US se­cu­rity agency for sus­pi­cious be­hav­iour? Not ex­actly.

Fur­ther pe­rusal of the ar­ti­cle re­vealed that the He­len of the West had sup­pos­edly got­ten on the radar for con­sis­tent use of “men­tions of the words/phrases “bomb”, “mak­ing bomb”, “bomb on credit”, “bomb loans” and “bomb for phone”. In other words it was just an­other witty piece of repar­tee on which lo­cal satir­i­cal site Is­land Wide News had made its name.

At the helm of the op­er­a­tion is Remy Fran­cis, a web de­vel­oper by trade who serves as direc­tor, manager and edi­tor-in-chief. He ex­plained that the con­cept first orig­i­nated from ran­dom con­ver­sa­tion with his com­rades.

“Me and my friends al­ways used to talk about a lot of the stuff you see on Is­land Wide News. A lot of so­cial is­sues, gen­eral stu­pid­ity as well. And we would have our own lit­tle take on it. Even­tu­ally we started hav­ing lit­tle ideas. We were also fans of The Onion which is a satir­i­cal web­site, orig­i­nally a satir­i­cal pa­per in the United States. We found it pretty hi­lar­i­ous and I fig­ured it was some­thing that I wanted to do, some­thing that Saint Lu­cia kind of needs. We have a lot of se­ri­ous stuff go­ing on. I think that satire could lend a new voice to it. At the same time I was also do­ing web devel­op­ment so I wanted to make a web­site por­tray­ing my pas­sion which was satire.”

But the ven­ture is not with­out its crit­ics. Last year Fran­cis re­ceived a call from the car­ni­val board af­ter live tweet­ing a band-launch­ing event. They un­der­stood the dia­logue was in jest but found cer­tain el­e­ments of­fen­sive as they didn’t want to cause any con­flict be­tween revellers.

How­ever, most of the time the crit­i­cism comes from per­sons for whom the punch line goes over their head.

“Ev­ery now and then we would get a few crit­ics from Face­book; usu­ally peo­ple who don’t re­al­ize that it’s satire. They will take it as an ac­tual story and they would rant with all their pas­sion against what they see as a great trav­esty. It baf­fles me. Ev­ery time we put out a story we will see one or two peo­ple like, “What is this?” I think I have only en­coun­tered one or two peo­ple who know it’s satire and still hate it. What­ever. You al­ways get crit­ics.”

So what kind of sto­ries get the most trac­tion? True to lo­cal cul­ture, those of a sala­cious na­ture.

“I find the sex sto­ries tend to go very far. Our most suc­cess­ful story along those lines was a story we did in Fe­bru­ary ti­tled ‘Cus­toms seizes 113,700 dil­dos from Cap Es­tate res­i­dent. A lot of peo­ple re­ally thought that hap­pened, some still be­lieve it hap­pened and talk about it to this day.”

An­other popular piece? ‘Saint Lu­cian-made con­dom ‘Lo-cal’ to hit shelves March 15th’ which had a few peo­ple look­ing for­ward to find­ing the Pi­ton-em­bla­zoned pro­phy­lac­tic in su­per­mar­kets. And adding fur­ther fire to the north-south wars, ‘Visa re­quire­ment for Vieux-Fort im­ple­mented’.

Be­sides Fran­cis, there are three other writ­ers on staff and one trainee, but he is al­ways on the look­out for tal­ented writ­ers. The group be­lieves in the ‘no holds barred’ ap­proach but takes pre­cau­tion against pos­si­ble lit­i­ga­tion. They don’t use real names ex­cept in the case of public fig­ures and some­times even change those as well. Be­sides vis­i­ble dis­claimers, sto­ries are also crafted to seem im­plau­si­ble.

“We try to put a lot of big hints in there to make sure peo­ple re­al­ize this is a joke, it’s not real news, do not take it se­ri­ously. But they don’t re­ally get it. It might be be­cause they’re not used to satire; we don’t see it that of­ten in Saint Lu­cia. But over the last few months we’ve started to get peo­ple say­ing, “Oh I love Is­land Wide News. Their sto­ries are hi­lar­i­ous.”

Cur­rently Is­land Wide News can be found on­line at www. is­land­wide­, twit­ter. Instagram and Face­book. Fran­cis even­tu­ally wants to ex­pand re­gion­ally and is al­ready ex­per­i­ment­ing with ar­ti­cles on other is­lands, most no­tably St. Vin­cent. Pro­duc­tion has been amped up to three ar­ti­cles a day, with the goal of out­putting 100 a month.

Not bad for a young man whose dreams of be­com­ing a writer were dashed by a teacher who said that it was not likely he would be able to hack it. Chal­lenge ac­cepted and com­pleted.

The witty team be­hind Is­land Wide News.

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