While hundreds of Bethesda residents are filing into mile-long lines for three-dollar cupcakes, fighting mercilessly over tiny parking spaces and relishing time spent buying organic groceries in Whole Foods, parent Paula Whyman, founder of Bethesda World News, tries to find the humor behind the whole situation.
Whyman started Bethesda World News in August and is the primary writer and editor. Whyman also writes a weekly comedic column called “Semi-Charmed Life: Surviving at the Center of the Universe” for the online version of Bethesda Magazine and has had several fiction stories published in anthologies.
The articles posted on Bethesda World News are humorous takes on everyday events in Bethesda.
“I can’t help but look around and see things that are hysterically amusing,” Whyman said. “Though we are part of this culture, there is a section of people who can chuckle out the sides at the things that go on.”
Wanting to expose the humorous side of everyday events isn’t the only reason Whyman founded the online newspaper.
“In the place where I worked about 20 years ago, the staff had an underground newspaper,” Whyman said. “I thought that if that worked in an office, and if the Onion worked on a much larger scale, it would be interesting to see if it would work on a local scale.”
With headlines like “Gifford’s Makes Bold Move, Gives New Flavor Unusual Name,” and “Shopper Makes Actual Purchase in Le Creuset Shop,” Bethesda World News addresses local topics in the style of other comical newspapers like the Onion and Global World News.
Before beginning the online venture, Whyman printed one pilot issue of Bethesda World News and distributed it to several businesses in April to gauge interest.
“I wanted Bethesda World News to be seen as different, like the opposite of a slick publication,” Whyman said. “I wanted it to look like an underground job; appealing, but also edgy.”
Whyman does most of the writing and editing herself, but often gets ideas and help from the eight members of the editorial board. To maintain a comical mystery, the board members real names are not listed on the website. Instead, they use pen names, such Whyman’s pen name, “Isabel Brooke.”
The site has been getting a positive reaction from the Bethesda community, Whyman said. Whitman parent Mandy Katz is an avid reader of Bethesda World News.
“Paula seems like the funniest mom in the PTA room,” Katz said. “She’s making funny, smirky comments about everything that’s going on and doesn’t miss anything. Its like she’s living the same Bethesda life as the rest of us but from a funnier angle.”
Currently, there’s only one advertisement — for the novel “Beach Week,” by Susan Coll — on the site. Whyman wants to increase advertising by partnering with other local, humor-based organizations to arrange a community-wide event. She also hopes to add contributing writers to the staff.
“There are a lot of people in Bethesda who could add a pinch of humor to their lives, and we think this website will do the trick,” Whyman said.