Just a mere 365 days after its creation, the EqOnion has quickly become the world’s leading satirical news website. In honor of its birthday on Dec. 8th, 2003, “Hempstead’s Finest News Source” will debut with a new format, a new domain name, and completely new content. To commemorate this momentous occasion, the staff of the EqOnion proudly present you with a full history – the true history – of the Equestri-Onion, authored by Nik Hitchcock and Josh Weinhold.
It all started with former school president Jake Freiburger. During a routine November blood drive, Jake decided to do his civic duty and donate blood. Little did he know, the results that would come back would be anything but ordinary. Several days later, he received a letter in the mail informing him that his blood initially tested positive for syphilis. He was shocked, and somewhat appalled. Luckily, however, upon further reading, he discovered that subsequent tests indicated that he did not have syphilis. Perhaps years down the road his rampant promiscuity will come back to haunt him, but for now he was STD-free.
Upon hearing of this story, junior Josh Lichti decided to write a story. It was a fairly straightforward account of the events, with several pictures illustrating Freiburger’s various responses to the letters. On a whim, he decided to put the story on the internet, on a website originally created to celebrate Freiburger’s surprising upset victory in the school elections.
Upon viewing the famous “Syphilis scandal shocks school” article, then Nik Hitchcock (Class of ’03) saw an opportunity. Why simply write stories about student government? Why not create a site with satirical news stories about the entire school? Lichti immediately caught on, and that weekend, the two founders, aided by several friends, went to work creating a revolutionary website.
Originally titled “The Yellow Journalist,” the site went through a few different titles before Josh Weinhold came up with a hum-dinger of a name. Since the site was inspired by The Onion, yet designed as a Hempstead-only news site, the Equestri-Onion became the new name. Later shortened to EqOnion for simplicity, the site has kept the name ever since. The site’s slogan, “We jump to conclusions so you don’t have to,” was chosen over the original “All the muck that’s fit to rake” both because it was unique to the site, and because the previous slogan better fit “The Yellow Journalist” title (If you don’t believe us, try searching for the slogan in quotation marks on Google. The slogan is only found on the EqOnion).
The EqOnion’s initial release was created over a single weekend. Employing stories by several different writers, and using state of the art photography and graphics, the original EqOnion was a visual feast for the eyes. The stories were split into Top Stories, those which were about sweeping issues at school, and feature articles, general about specific people at Hempstead. Also, the site mimicked The Onion by creating a section of “U.S. and World News” Headlines in order to better balance the overall appearance of the site.
The initial site was well received by the creators’ friends, but originally, few people at Hempstead were aware of its existence. However, when Social Studies teacher Dennis “Carl” Schroeder was informed that there was a story about him on the site, his glowing praise of the site’s creativity and outstanding journalistic prowess helped to boost the site’s recognition among teachers. Stories about other teachers soon followed, most notably the series on Mr. Leoffolholz and the slew of stories on Mr. Orr, Schroeder, and Mr. Burns.
As more and more teachers became featured on the site, the EqOnion’s popularity began to explode. Students and teachers began to come to the writers with suggestions for stories, in hopes that they might be featured.
All of this was great news for the site’s operators, but the site’s real push towards full recognition resulted in some tumultuous times for both the EqOnion and other news outlets at Hempstead. Josh Weinhold, friend and contributor to the EqOnion, was also involved with the actual school newspaper, The Equestrian. In order to help generate interest among students, Weinhold approached the advisor about writing a story about the EqOnion in the school newspaper. The creators were thrilled. Now was their big chance to go mainstream. The two founders agreed to be interviewed, and the story was prepared to run in that month’s issue.
Several days later, disaster struck. In order to make space for some piece other of journalist excrement, reported to have been by that one person that used to be on the Equestrian staff that everyone hated (you know who I am talking about), the EqOnion story was delayed for a later release.
The site’s operators were furious. They had gone out of their way to be civil to a competing paper, only to be stabbed in the back. Naturally, war was declared. The EqOnion focused all its efforts on destroying the credibility of Hempstead’s second finest news source, and many reputations were forever tarnished. After weeks of intense writing, the Equestrian finally surrendered, a momentous occasion that was celebrated on the site. The EqOnion story ran on the front page of the February issue.
In fact, the EqOnion is certainly no stranger to scandals. The most famous of all scandals involved EqOnion photographer Dan Gonzalez. After a month or two of providing quality images for the site, it was revealed that Gonzalez was embroiled in a messy situation involving embezzled unemployment pay. Naturally, the site’s owners were infuriated. While several recommended his immediate dismissal, it was eventually decided that the people would best be able to decide whether or not Dan would stay. Thus began the famous “Dan Debate”, which generated more reader feedback than any other story before or since. While ultimately Gonzalez was never officially removed from the site, it did serve as a wake up call to all people who abuse unemployment pay.
The EqOnion continued to generate big time news at Hempstead. The most extensive coverage was focused primarily on the Hempstead Quiz Bowl, and also President Freiburger’s unsuccessful reelection campaign. By the end of the school year, the EqOnion had gone from a second rate website into Hempstead’s Finest News Source.
During the summer of 2003, the EqOnion saw little attention, both from its readers and its staff members. With the staff toiling tirelessly away at producing the latest Pollo Pictures production, Gorkonator vs. Executionator, the site was not updated consistently. The start of the next school year brought extensive new storylines, as well as new, youthful readers.
It’s amazing to see how many people actually read the EqOnion. Hempstead’s secretaries, teachers, administration, and students are all fans of the site. However, the beloved readership extends beyond the walls of Hempstead. Many parents and younger siblings have developed a love for the satirical content on the EqOnion. Even teachers and administrators from rival city schools avidly read the website, and have been quote as saying “we wish we had kids like the ones who do the EqOnion.”
After a full year in existence, the EqOnion has begun to diversify. In the summer of 2003, the site debuted with its own fine line of performance fitness apparel, offering EqOnion t-shirts, sweatshirts, and long-sleeve t-shirts. To commemorate the first anniversary of the EqOnion, and to celebrate the shift to eqonion.com, the site is developing more clothing designs. Thanks to a generous new supplier, EqOnion boxer shorts, neck ties, and sweatpants are in the developing stages.
Despite the famous cross country/band hostage crisis that was covered on the EqOnion in September, the site has joined forces with the Mustang Band to form an alliance not seen since the days of the Last Alliance of men and elves. The EqOnion has become the first official sponsor of the Hempstead band, and a five foot banner will be proudly displayed at all Hempstead performances for the next year.
There you have it, 365 days in 1300 words. It is the comprehensive, most inclusive history of the EqOnion to date. We hope you enjoyed it, and continue to enjoy the EqOnion. If you have any questions about the history or development of the site, send us an e-mail, and we’ll post it with an answer. Keep reading the site, buying t-shirts, sending e-mails, suggesting stories, and all the other wonderful things that make all the EqOnion fans so great. After that, just sit back, relax, and let us jump to the conclusions. Here at the EqOnion, we want to be the people you turn to first for all the latest news from Hempstead High School, and from around the world.