Satirical spoofs spread word for The Civilian

CHARLIE GATES
Last updated 09:23 01/04/2013
Ben Uffindell
DON SCOTT/Fairfax NZ
GREW LEGS: Ben Uffindell, the creator of satirical website The Civilian, sits on the steps of Canterbury University's central library.

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A satirical website launched just two weeks ago by a Christchurch man has become an instant hit and is already being heralded as "New Zealand's answer to The Onion".

Former University of Canterbury student Ben Uffindell set up The Civilian as a sideline project, but its success has turned the website into his day job.

The irreverent, satirical site gets an average of 15,000 page views a day and already has more than 2000 likes on Facebook.

It won praise from an unlikely source this week when one of its hoax stories apparently fooled a Kiwi journalist. A story claiming the ACT Party was launching an investigation into how John Banks was their leader prompted a call from one unnamed journalist to the party's president, John Boscawen.

Boscawen issued a press release comparing The Civilian to prestigious US satire newspaper and website The Onion.

"I am honoured that the ACT Party has been satirised in The Civilian following in the footsteps of John Key, Steven Joyce and David Shearer," Boscawen said.

"I had a phone call today from a reporter who had been sent the story and thought she was on to a scoop. I had to break the news that she had been a victim of an April Fools' joke five days too early."

Uffindell said he was surprised by the instant success of The Civilian and the ACT Party press release.

"It's good to know we are breaking the news," he joked.

"I never expected it to take off this fast. There are all kinds of people doing great things out there, but getting noticed is the hardest part."

The website started getting thousands of hits in just the first few days after a satirical story about North Korea threatening a nuclear attack against New Zealand went viral.

Uffindel, 21, finished his degree in political science at the Canterbury University last year and worked as an English tutor for a period before launching The Civilian website. He had no plans for the future of the website, but hoped to sell advertising so he could make a living.

"I am so far ahead of any plan I made that I am still trying to work out the future," he said.

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- The Press

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