The anonymous bloggers at UnderTheHilltop.com have perfected the formula for witty, biting pseudo-news.
With stories about vintage television shows, stereotypical Bradley student archetypes, a “Death to Smoochy” movie review and a preview of Bradley’s 2010 football team, the student-run blog is like a more local version of The Onion.
And the site works hard to protect its anonymity. To interview “Lester Bangs,” the nom-de-plume of UTH’s editor-in-chief, we had to use G-Chat to protect his identity, and he took precautions to avoid answering questions that could reveal any of the bloggers’ identities.
For all the secrecy and sarcasm, Bangs said the blog began out of “boredom,” but has evolved into something more.
“I think we all like to have some project to work on outside of school, and it’s nice to have an outlet for all our thoughts and ramblings,” he said.
Bangs said the blog started with a group of friends discussing a place to write their “ramblings,” but nothing materialized for some time. Months later, the group decided to write stories. Once they had about seven or eight collected, they launched the site.
About five people contribute regularly to the blog, Bangs said, and all write anonymously.
“There isn’t anything like this at Bradley,” he said. “We thought it could be something that a lot of different people would take an interest in.”
Shielded by the pen names, UTH’s bloggers take on unconventional topics with a hearty dose of sarcasm.
“Writing anonymously frees you from any bias people may have for or against you,” Bangs said. “And if people knew who we were, they probably wouldn’t say the things they say around us.”
To increase visibility, UTH also created a Facebook page, where students can “become fans.” So far, 59 students have become fans.
“It’s tough to get direct feedback because nobody knows who is doing [the blog],” he said. “One cool thing has been overhearing people talking about it in class.”
Bangs said the blog’s contributors come from majors “across the board,” making it difficult to pinpoint exactly who is behind UTH. But Bangs said the blog’s future depends on readership.
“We know that eventually we’ll have to leave Bradley, and we know we won’t have the time to keep running it, so maybe we’ll look to pass it on to some younger readers,” he said.
As readers increase, Bangs added UTH may sell ads to Super Savers.
“Maybe we’ll get some free beer out of the deal,” he said, a clue that he is over 21 years old.
UTH unveiled the blog with a chalking campaign, writing the Web address across campus. The bloggers are planning further marketing schemes, but details are up in the air. Bangs did reveal a later phase of the site’s marketing campaign may involve “establishing some sort of Project Mayhem, like in Fight Club.”