Making Waves in Iowa: BSNews Takes Satire News Prize
Satire sites are started for a variety of reasons. Some are creative outlets for people whose primary occupations offer no comparable opportunity; others are primarily business ventures. Most fall somewhere in between. For Ben Spierenburg, however, his satire site represents something else: a stepping stone.
"I saw having my own satire website as a place where I could show what I could do," said Spierenburg, 26. "No one else will ever give you a chance."
An aspiring writer, Spierenburg took a major step forward last week when an entry from his website, BSNews, took first place in the HumorFeed Satire News Awards. His winning entry, "Bush Sells Louisiana Back to the French," was selected by a panel of prominent journalists and humor writers from the New York Times, National Public Radio, the BBC, and Boston University.
"It's the first respectable [online] contest I've ever heard of," said Spierenburg. "I'm ecstatic to add this to my resume."
He's had a longtime fascination with comedians and comedy writing - "I was watching George Carlin on HBO when I was 6," he admits - and has been an enthusiastic admirer of internet satire legend The Onion for nearly eight years. It's apparent from BSNews' success that he's learned well from these examples (the winning "Bush sells Louisiana" story was also read on the Howard Stern show last fall). However, for all that he's earning a name for himself as a writer, his ambitions are actually more animated.
"I was really inspired by South Park," said Spierenburg. " I was amazed at how the creators' lives were transformed overnight, just because they could make some funny stuff. I wanted the same for my own life."
His interest in producing animation led to an internship in New York City at Funny Garbage, a major media developer that produces work ranging from broadcast animation to websites, games, and product designs. Since then, Spierenburg has been developing scripts, working on his own flash animation shorts for BSNews, and even landed a contract to produce an animated commercial for an insurance company in New Jersey.
"I thought if I could learn how to do what the creators of South Park did, it could pay off in a similarly big way someday for me," he said. " I truly believe in the power of excellent comedy writing."
He hopes to continue to develop his writing portfolio and build on his success with BSNews, eventually moving back to the East Coast from Iowa, where he currently resides. However, while his long-term vision is focused on a range of writing projects, he has no plans to leave BSNews behind as he moves on.
"I plan on doing this indefinitely," said Spierenburg. "I think that's the most beautiful part about the web - I can keep doing this when I'm 70."