The history of student publications at McGill goes back nearly 150 years, with the creation of the McGill University Gazette, the first undergraduate-run monthly publication at McGill, in 1874. The 20th century saw the emergence of a different kind of publication: satire publications. These publications prefigured one that today many students know and love: The McGill Nightly. Unlike fake news, which takes advantage of the reader to peddle falsehoods, satirical news plays with the reader by using humour and irony to poke fun or make social commentary at real-world events and social trends.
The McGill Nightly’s team comprises a small inner circle, including two permanent writers, a website developer, and manager––all of whom remain set on maintaining anonymity.
Though the Nightly covers a wide range of topics, it initially came into being to poke fun at The McGill Daily––apparent in their name, brand design, articles, and tagline.
“We call ourselves ‘McGill’s Second Least Trusted News Source’ for a reason,” the team said. “[The McGill Daily has] a $260,000 annual budget to write articles that, at best, the vast majority of the student body doesn’t care about, and at worst disagrees with.”
The Nightly’s claim is factually incorrect, however: The Daily splits its $260,000 DPS budget with Le Délit.
While a few of their articles directly critique the Daily‘s operations, the Nightly is more often writing about the failures of SSMU, the university administration, McGill’s on-campus services (or lack thereof), and online school, among others.
“Whenever shit hits the fan in a major way, we know we’re in for a fun article,” the team said. “It’s always fun to write about a big current event that everyone knows about. It helps make our articles feel relevant and timely and lets us have our say on all the important goings-on at McGill. Those articles also rack up the most views, which is fun too.”
Whether it is online publications like The Onion or The Beaverton, or shows like Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, the use of humour and wit to mock or break down current events is extremely popular—and it’s something that is not lost on The McGill Nightly team.
“We don’t think there is anything that makes McGill politics easy to understand,” the team said. “But we do find humour to be a great way to comment on these often-complicated issues. [We] use our articles to express the opinions and disappointment that McGill students too often feel in these institutions. Humour is a great way to communicate these feelings in a way that people will want to read.”
The McGill Nightly’s satirical perspective on campus events has become a staple part of students’ communal commiseration over the institution’s absurdities, with their articles consistently receiving thousands of views.
“Thankfully, we didn’t have any friends at the time to tell us we’re not funny, so three years and 60 articles later, here we are,” the team said. “When they’re good enough, we’re always happy to publish guest submissions.”
Although they don’t have a big budget, this hasn’t stopped the Nightly from continuing to write.
“Whatever money we do have comes from merch sales and we put all the profits back into the Nightly [website], usually by giving away laptop stickers on our Instagram.”
A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that The McGill Nightly was McGill’s first own satire publication. In fact, McGill has had multiple satire publications throughout its history and the Nightly was not the first. The Tribune regrets this error.