For the past several years, Global Voices readers have—perhaps arguably—looked forward to the annual April Fool's post, which offered some much-needed levity in the midst of the stories of conflicts, protests, imprisonments, corruption, censorship, corporate graft and other tales of global gloom and doom that appear regularly on the web site of the 11-year-old citizen media network.
On April 1 2016, however, the Global Voices front page was its usual serious old self, and Managing Director Georgia Popplewell placed the blame squarely on contributor Allen Smithee.
Smithee, who has been authoring the Global Voices’ April Fool's article since 2009, joined Global Voices in 2008 as a normal contributor, but was relegated to the role of court jester after submitting a handful of stories that were rejected by editors on the grounds that, according to Executive Director Ivan Sigal, “nothing in them had any basis in fact or truth.”
In previous April 1 posts Smithee has claimed that Global Voices spent years covering a fake country, that the nonprofit had embarked on outrageous for-profit ventures, and that Popplewell was forced into hiding after an April Fool's prank promising the community free iPhones enraged community members.
“I'm not convinced Smithee knows that what he's writing isn't factual,” said Managing Editor Sahar Habib Ghazi when contacted for comment. “But the pieces more or less work in the context, so we publish them.”
According to Popplewell, who also edits The Bridge, GV's original writing section, in the third week of March Smithee e-mailed her pitches for four stories, two of which were deeply libelous and one of which was “indescribably vulgar”. Last week Smithee submitted a fifth pitch, which Popplewell said she accepted. Late on March 31, however, Smithee e-mailed to say he'd got the dates mixed up “because 2016 is a leap year.”
“This makes absolutely no sense,” said News Editor Lauren Finch, who has previously had what she calls “the misfortune” of editing Smithee's work. “The extra day in February should have caused him to submit the story a day early. But that's Smithee for you.”