College party paper is not for everyone

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

COLUMBIA, Mo. -- Ah, college life. All-night study sessions in the library. Professors challenging the conventional wisdom. Snowball battles on the quad.

Get real.

For students at the University of Missouri-Columbia, college is all about casual sex, meddling parents, foul-mouthed friendships and partying until you puke. At least that's the portrayal in The Booze News, a new weekly newspaper that glorifies the wonders of excessive drinking.

The publication's founders, a pair of University of Illinois graduates, call The Booze News (motto: "Today's News ... Under the Influence") an over-the-top satire modeled after The Onion, the popular parody newspaper started by college students in Madison, Wis., that has since gone global.

But some Missouri students and local business owners aren't laughing. A Booze News book review about interracial gay adoption that referred to the two male parents as "freaks" drew a formal protest and request that university officials censure the paper.

Several downtown business owners have thrown out the free paper, which has published four issues, afraid of offending customer sensibilities. Even some campus Greek houses deem the material too edgy for members.

"The paper is not for 8-year olds," said co-founder Atish Doshi, a 2004 Illinois graduate from suburban Detroit. "It's about being immature college kids. That's what makes it successful. We don't take ourselves seriously."

Success has come quickly for Doshi and fellow Illinois graduate Derek Chin, who said they started the paper three years ago "as a complete joke."

The Booze News can now be found at Illinois State University, Indiana University, the University of Iowa and the University of Wisconsin-Madison, along with Missouri and Illinois.

Doshi, who works in Chicago with a full-time staff of six, said he expects to expand to another dozen campuses in the next year. The future looks even brighter.

"I would love to be at as many schools as possible," Doshi said. "There will always be college students."

A recent issue of the Missouri edition does contain a public service announcement by the U.S. Department of Transportation about the dangers of drunken driving. There's also a small disclaimer that the paper "in no way promotes, encourages or supports binge drinking and/or underage drinking."

"This newspaper is designed for entertainment purposes only," the disclaimer reads.

More prominent, though, are features on the local bartender of the week, alcohol reviews, drink recipes, drinking game instructions and guidelines on how to beat hangovers.

The recent article about the adoptive gay couple -- a supposed book review in which the unidentified author looked solely at the cover of the children's book -- crossed the line from satire to threatening speech, said Ali.

He wrote a letter to other campus activists and the university's vice chancellor of student affairs urging a potential boycott of local businesses that distribute the weekly paper.

The paper's managing editor -- who has since stepped down from the job -- acknowledged in a note to readers that the article "went a little far" but "was all in good fun." Doshi said he regretted publishing that article, adding that the article's writer has since been fired.

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