Every year on their Old Newsboys Day, the Michigan Alpena Lions take a day to spread fake news, and people are more than eager to read it.

This year’s “Extra Extra” edition of the Alpena News had the scoop on billionaires Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk planning to raise all 100 shipwrecks in Michigan’s Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary.  Massive bridges will then entice visitors in driverless vehicles to visit the ships and the new Amazon-Tesla Alpena Shipwreck Byway, a museum and hotel monstrosity run by who else but William Shatner. And all this work should be done by June of 2023.

Fake news
If it sounds crazy, it’s because it is. This specially-written edition of the Alpena News is a spoof. But the money it generates for the Salvation Army to kick start their holiday fundraising is no joking matter.

From this one-day newspaper sale, needy children will get toys for Christmas, or warm coats and shoes. Families will have food on the table.

Alpena Lions old newsboy paper
Maj. Prezza Morrison, corps officer of the Salvation Army of Alpena and Alpena News Publisher/Editor Justin A. Hinkley are important contributors to the success of the Lions Old Newsboys parody newspaper. Photo by Darby Hinkley.the table.

Newspaper sales on the streets of Alpena in front of Walmart and Perch’s IGA, the longtime, local grocery store, brought in US$3,000 this year, says Randy Boboltz, co-chairman of the Lion project for 20 years. Roughly 25 of the 50 Alpena Lions took a shift, or sometimes two, peddling the paper to any reader willing to pay for it. Usually it’s a dollar up to US$10, but a few may write a check for a larger amount, he says.

Salvation Army Major Prezza Morrison in Alpena says this yearly effort by Lions to help start their holiday collection is much appreciated. “I know,” said Prezza, “if there was anything we ever needed, the Lions would be there for us.”

Read all about it
In history, newsboys started with the first mass circulation papers in the late 1800s. Young boys, most of them homeless runaways or orphans, stood on busy city street corners day in and day out, late into the night screaming out the day’s headlines to peddle a paper. It was the only media.

When newspaper owners wanted more money, threatening the poor boys’ already meek livelihood, the newsboys banded together to form a union. Eventually, in 1904, the National Newsboys Association was formed to help get boys off the street, into warm coats and shoes, and in the best circumstances, school or training. The efforts spread, and different versions of it continue today to support children in need.

In Alpena, Old Newsboys Day started in 1912. Lions took it over in 1929, according to Boboltz and his co-chair Gary Stevens. The money raised went to the Alpena Women’s Civic League that helped needy families, and when the league disbanded, Lions chose the Salvation Army as their new beneficiary.

About five years ago, Boboltz got his club’s OK to move their Newsboys Day fundraiser from December to October so as not to interfere with the Army’s Christmas bell ringers. October is also a warmer time for volunteers to stand on the corner with a bundle of papers for two or four-hour shifts, he says.

Fiction fundraiser fun
The Alpena News not only writes the one-page paper, but prints it for the Lions at no cost. This year’s breaking but fake story was written by “Justin Jest, News Staff Moron,” according to the byline. The fact is, Justin Hinkley is the publisher/editor of the real daily newspaper with a circulation around 6,000, and it was his pleasure to create the parody this year.

Hinkley says his staff takes turns with the fun opportunity to write a story that is all fiction and no fact.

The Alpena Lions Club is an active group, showing up frequently on the paper’s lifestyle page.  “We are happy to help them,” says Hinkley. “It’s important for us to keep it up.”

Boboltz has kept a copy of the paper each year, one of his favorites being last year when the newspaper warned readers of a mysterious volcano that emerged in town, and the good news that gold had been found under the city library. He still chuckles over this one because a young guy who was new to town saw the headline but didn’t know it was fake news. He decided to share it with others.

“I love when there’s a headline that’s fun to hawk,” says Boboltz.  “In 2002 there was a picture of whales in Thunder Bay.”

“Whales in the Bay…. Whales in the Bay….. Read all about it….”