Making Headlines And To Do Lists

Susan Page
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Wednesday - January 23, 2008
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Newspaper headlines are like my “to do” lists. What’s listed first is often all I have time to accomplish, then the list becomes a crumpled “ABC” gum wrapper in what I call my purse “morgue,” where dead receipts, coupons and other paper goods await autopsy.

Most of us often only have time to read the front page headline story. News stories, like “to do’s,” are prioritized. For example, a recent Honolulu daily paper headline read “60 Sunni insurgents killed, 193 captured in Iraq.” This big U.S./ Iraqi military victory was on Page 4, below, in bigger type, “Music stars, writer tied to steroid probe” which in turn was below “Spears loses bid to visit children.”

If headlines and story placement say a lot about community priorities, succeeding in Iraq and Afghanistan isn’t high on the list, even though success or failure there will affect our lives dramatically. “War” stories that reported failures, missteps or casualties made the front pages for years, yet today wins are subordinate to breaking big “news” of singers on growth hormones.

But winning always makes front pages if the warriors are the UH Warriors. Headline subjects in Hawaii have been consistent: Colt Brennan; UH Warrior football; June Jones; Colt on June Jones; Warriors; Frazier fired; McMackin hired; Warriors leave for NFL draft; Warriors need better facility; what June Jones says about McMackin; McMackin on Jones; Jones on Frazier and more Warriors.

No complaints here (except about placement of military success stories), because I’m a basic die-hard Warrior football fan. I even presumptuously wrote June Jones an e-mail letter on “decision Sunday” telling him why he wouldn’t like Dallas. As a former Texan and SMU Mustang, I warned of the ways Dallas and its power brokers operate, even sharing some personal stories of experiencing racial prejudice, noting the Old South discrimination that still simmers under the surface.

I also noted things that may be a relief for Jones in Dallas. SMU, a private school with an eight-digit football budget, was once a powerhouse in the now-defunct Southwest Conference. Its alums long for the olden days. Jones’ wishes won’t have to trudge through stacks of bureaucracy and suffer decision-makers saying, “Who me? Not me.”

Though I’m critical of what our daily papers decide should lead and get hidden, I remind myself that they’re not the New York Times or LA Times.

Here, “local” leads, and the Warriors/Brennan/Jones/McMac -kin story is rightly top headline material. It impacts every level of life here: economic, social, educational and political. David Choo’s excellent January Hawaii Business article, “The Colt Effect,” spells out how the economic dominoes will fall in Hawaii because of the priceless exposure during 2007’s magical season, ending in New Orleans’ Sugar Bowl. Other lesser programs like UH, such as Boston College, Boise State, George Mason and the University of Missouri, have reaped fortunes in the long-legged aftermath of similar national media-touted seasons. Boston College quarterback Doug Flutie, with his 1984 game-winning pass to beat powerhouse University of Miami, left a legacy of success at BC still known as the “Flutie Factor.”

Those same long-ranging economic windfalls will land here, too. (Choo chose “The Colt Effect.” I like alliterations like “The Brennan Bounce.”)

It’s petty and short-sighted for UH academic heads to cry foul at these Warrior headlines and try to claim a share of the hard-won spoils of “Warrior wars” for their departments. Be patient. The Brennan Bounce will catch enough air to reach every ram-shackle research lab and decrepit dorm - if those in charge of spending keep their “to do’s” from the morgue of malaise. Remember, the Warrior football program brought home the bacon; it gets to eat breakfast first.

According to a leading Texas consulting firm, studies show that in journalism people care about breaking news and big unexpected events.

So, here are some front page headlines I’d love to see: “Peace Achieved in the Middle East,” “U.S. Troops Win Peace in Iraq and Afghanistan” and “Dick Tomey named UH athletic director.”

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