In early December, New Maine News reported that climate scientists had determined the cause of the state’s unseasonably warm temperatures and lack of snow: a new snowmobile purchased by a man from Rangeley.

The parody news site (think Maine version of The Onion) was, of course, poking fun at a gripe you’re likely to hear by the coffee pots at a corner store – that as soon as you buy an expensive new snow toy, the weather won’t cooperate.

It’s about as believable a news story as “Sexy Paul LePage” being the least popular Halloween costume for seven years in a row, or Portland’s mayor calling out the name of his native New York in bed – other “articles” on the site. But, these days, with ads and click bait posing as news stories, journalism being dismissed as fake news and politicians offering “alternative facts,” it can be hard to tell whether a ridiculous headline is real or, as in this case, satire.

Fortunately for New Maine News creator Seth Macy, enough people get the joke. Macy, a writer and former estate caretaker from Rockland, started the site in October. With an average of 50,000 page views a week and more than 7,300 followers on Facebook, he’s already drummed up enough ad revenue to cover his costs.

Fans say it’s obviously satire and are laughing out loud at New Maine News’ take on the people, trends and quirks unique to Maine. But some critics say the site, which isn’t clearly labeled as satirical content so as not to ruin the joke, helps continue the trend of blurring the line of what’s true and what isn’t, especially when it comes to the internet.

Belfast City Councilor Michael Hurley was upset by a New Maine News story in November that said Belfast was stamping out poverty by making it illegal for poor people to live in the well-heeled tourist town, attributing fake quotes to a real city councilor, Mary Mortier, such as: “Let’s face it, the poor are noble, hard-working and downtrodden, but they also drive their loud trucks through town and shop at places like Walmart.” Macy, who picked Mortier’s name at random from the city’s website, removed it after getting several complaints. She didn’t return a phone call seeking comment for this story.

“I do think the site is funny, but I think it’s sophomoric, to just make up quotes from a real person,” Hurley said. “People read things online and believe what they want. If you look at the comments on (New Maine News), some people believe the stories.”

One of those people is Portland Mayor Ethan Strimling’s mother, who called him to ask what was going on when she saw the story: “Portland City Council Says Mayor Must Pay for Own Top Hat and Sash” – a dig on Strimling for being accused of trying to grab more power than the city charter allows.

Strimling, however, has a sense of humor about it. Both times he was lampooned by the site, he posted the stories from his own Facebook page.

“I thought the pieces were very funny,” he said. “I think parody can get at deeper truths. He (Macy) touched on some of the back and forth, some of the tension, that’s going on with the council.”

Still, people do get fooled by the ever-growing number of parody and fake news sites that post enticing headlines just to get page views, like stories that appeared last year about pop star Katy Perry moving to Portland and a Harry Potter spinoff film being shot in Maine. New Maine News has a motto across its homepage that, to someone unfamiliar with Maine media, could be taken at face value: “Maine’s only trusted source for local real breaking news.” But since satire and parody are included in the First Amendment, Macy is pretty confident what he’s doing is protected speech.

Macy has written satire before, for gaming sites mostly. He’s a big fan of The Onion, probably the best known national satire site. He also remembers, as a youngster in the ’80s, seeing the Maineiac Express — a twice-printed newspaper parody with headlines like “Northern Maine Secedes!” and “Illiteracy declared official second language.”

Macy, 40, grew up on North Haven island near Rockland, where his father is a minister. Married with two children, he has worked as a caretaker of island property and is currently working as a freelance writer for gaming sites like Imagine Games Network and Hard Drive.

He started New Maine News mostly “to write some funny stuff and make my friends laugh.” He doesn’t want his satire to be political, like so much is, but wants to follow The Onion’s lead and lampoon the nuts and bolts of daily life – in his case, daily life in Maine.

“The Onion makes fun of everybody and everything, and that’s what I’m striving to do. I never want my stories to let people know what my politics are,” Macy said.

Macy writes all the satirical stories himself, usually posting one a day with photo-shopped art – like a woman in a winter scene wearing a sleeping bag with arm holes and a headline claiming it’s the season’s “hottest trend.” He pays close attention to Maine news and events, and keeps an eye out for anything that’ll make a funny headline. His advertisers, such as Yopp Skis in Bethel, pay enough to cover the costs of producing the site at home on his computer, including software and WordPress services. He also sells New Maine News hats and T-shirts on the site and has started a campaign on the funding site patreon.com to raise money to pay people who want to submit satirical articles to New Maine News.

Tim Sample, a veteran Maine humorist known nationally, said he enjoyed several of the stories he saw on New Maine News, including one about Uncle Henry’s new swimsuit issue. It said the venerable Maine publication, where people place ads for everything from firewood to unwanted wedding rings, was putting out an edition listing ads for swimsuits. No pictures, just written ads, including one for a “lace-up flower 2-piece,” $140 or best offer, in Rumford.

Sample thinks parody is getting harder and harder to do, because some of the things happening in the world – like the president’s Twitter usage – already seem like something a comedian might dream up.

“Parody is an interesting form of humor, very hit-and-miss, and it depends largely on how familiar someone is with the subject, and what their own views on it are,” Sample said. “For parody to work, you need an agreed-upon norm and then you have to exaggerate that. But today it’s hard to find an agreed-upon norm about anything, or something that doesn’t already seem like exaggeration.”

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