By all measures, The Georgetown Heckler is more popular than ever. On Feb. 9, the Facebook page of the satirical online magazine surpassed 2,500 likes, an increase from 101 likes as of Mar. 5, 2014. This spring, the publication received over 80 student applications to fill just four staff writer positions. Over the course of the past year, the Heckler has published over 400 articles.
Officially unaffiliated with the university since its inception, the Heckler was founded as the Georgetown Lampoon by Justin Droms (COL ‘03) in 2003. Since then, it has been passed down, according to its website, “from one group of disturbed individuals to the next.” After incurring significant backlash in 2007 for its seemingly authentic parody of a New Student Orientation guide and in 2009 for its article “The Hoya Holds Annual Cross-Lighting Ceremony in Dahlgren Quad,” its popularity remained largely dormant until the spring of last year.
When Joe Luther (COL ’16) took over as editor-in-chief last March along with Managing Editor Connor Rohan (COL ’16), he saw great potential in his new role. [Full disclosure: Connor Rohan is a staff writer for the Voice.] “Over the summer, Connor and myself spent a lot of time preparing for this year, writing articles in advance and marketing [the Heckler] largely to the underclassmen, who weren’t as experienced with the Georgetown culture,” Luther said.
Rohan attributes the Heckler’s soaring popularity to the publication’s “strong leadership and dedication to good content.”
“Joe has been an incredibly proactive editor-in-chief. He’s passionate, he stays on top of things, and he adheres to timetables.” Rohan also stated that communicating with “individuals at different universities who run successful satirical publications” has given them “an idea of how to most efficiently structure the organization with quality control in mind.”
It was only late this year that the two decided to enhance the organizational structure. “It’s transformed into an institutionalized organization where we have an editorial board, a management board, and a system in place for accepting stories and editing them,” Luther said.
Hiring 20 staff writers in the fall from a pool of 70 applicants and four more in the spring from a pool of 80 has given the Heckler a wider perspective, according to Luther. “[Initially] it was limited to what I was capable of satirizing,” he said. “As we added more people, more talent, our ability to satirize campus life has really increased.”
At the beginning of the year, the Hecker significantly ramped up its on-campus presence. Flyers everywhere read: “New articles, every day for a month!” Content has since been published for over 170 consecutive days. “Having new content that people can always come back to has been a big selling point for us this year,” Luther said.
During finals week last semester, the Heckler enjoyed a significant jump in readership. Its busiest day saw 50,137 total webpage views, and its top article of the year – “Government Department in Chaos as Realist Professors Conquer Liberals” – garnered 34,184 unique visitors. Typical readership, however, is around 10,000 views per week. The Heckler continues to seek to expand its number of contributors and draw on different ways to market its content.
According to Luther, the success of the Heckler has shaped the desire of its leadership to run for GUSA. “The way people have been so receptive to the approach we have taken toward addressing student issues and things that affect people on campus, we thought there might be some credence in a campaign run in a similar fashion.
But despite their bid for political office, Luther and Rohan remain true to their satirical roots. “The difference between satire and jokes is that there’s something underneath satire. There’s a grain of truth between what’s being said and what’s being meant, Luther said “We’re trying to get at issues in ways that GUSA campaigns have not in the past.”.