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New campus newspaper hits VCU

“A College Newspaper That’s Actually About College,” reads the tagline for The Black Sheep, the newest publication to hit Virginia Commonwealth University’s campus.

In sum, it’s about drinking, free food, dancing, drinking, music, sex and drinking.

“It’s all about just college life. And it’s obvious college students go out and drink and go out to parties,” explains The Black Sheep’s editor, Sarah Aboulhosn, a VCU junior.

Highlights of the inaugural Oct. 5 issue: an article called, “To Pregame or Not to Pregame.” (The answer? Pregame.) Pictures of partiers with Bacardi and beer bottles in hand. An interview with the Bartender of the Issue. Instructions for a word-association drinking game. A seek-and-find puzzle with hidden pictures of a Solo cup, an Adderall pill and a burrito.

Oh, and a disclaimer on the last page that says, “The Black Sheep in no way promotes, encourages or supports binge drinking, and/or under-age drinking.” The paper makes fun of college experiences, Aboulhosn says, but “is not condoning any of it.”

The newspaper is the latest venture of Black Card Media, a Chicago company that publishes versions of The Black Sheep at 21 other colleges. Over the summer, the company approached VCU because it wanted to expand onto an urban university campus, Aboulhosn says.

Why ink in a digital era? The physical presence of the paper -- distributed in local restaurants, businesses and academic buildings -- makes it harder to ignore, Aboulhosn says. It’s also promoted on theblacksheeponline.com and through social media. “We’ve actually had a lot of good positive feedback,” Aboulhosn says.

The university’s administration has nothing to say about it. “The Black Sheep is not a VCU publication,” writes Director of Communications and Public Relations Anne L. Buckley.

All the contributing writers are VCU students, while the corporate office handles layout and advertising, Aboulhosn says. That advertising includes ads for happy-hour drink specials. Such ads violate state law because it’s illegal to advertise reduced-price drinks or drink discounts in the media, explains Kathleen Shaw, a spokeswoman for the Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control. Aboulhosn says she has nothing to do with the paper’s ad sales.

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