WHT editorial: Of heckling and headlines

  • 6176723_web1_wht_localNews_logo-copy.jpg

“Wish you weren’t here.”


“Wish you weren’t here.”

Those were the words written by Oahu-based, anti-Trump protesters on fliers and online memes expressing they didn’t want the 45th president visiting Hawaii before he embarked on his Far East tour.

They were also the quoted words that comprised the headline to a story written by the Los Angeles Times that ran on West Hawaii Today’s front page Friday.

The story captured the mood of the protesters from the 50th state — where 30 percent of voters supported Trump, the lowest in the nation. It’s also the birth place of Trump adversary and predecessor Barack Obama, so many of those protesters weren’t looking forward to Trump’s visit.

It was a story. That’s it. And a rather benign one to boot: A politician visits; people jeer. It’s been written thousands of times.

But just to clarify, it wasn’t West Hawaii Today’s opinion.

Several readers reached out to West Hawaii Today after it ran. Some said they were canceling subscriptions, some sent emails to the highest offices of this paper’s company, while others were vicious in their personal name-calling. They all cited a perceived bias against Trump in the headline as the reason for their reactions. They also said the headline betrayed the newspaper’s true opinion of the president’s visit.

But it wasn’t.

Actually, as a Hawaii newspaper, any time the Aloha State grabs the nation’s attention, we’re all for it. Heck, from our local perspective, we hope the Trumps’ next Hawaii stop includes a stay at Hualalai or Mauna Lani.

We realize, of course, that politics are hyper-sensitive right now and when it comes to certain positions, people are entrenched no matter the other side’s explanation.

Nevertheless, let us try and explain the headline from the newspaper’s end.

It was a quote from the fliers and memes circulating throughout the state, a parody of a joke protesters used to mock the president as well as Hawaii’s aloha postcards. This was how the story began, focusing on some people’s moods prior the visit. Had a majority of the islands’ residents been looking forward to the visit, that now infamous headline wouldn’t have matched.

Could the headline have been flatter? Duller? Something like, “President to visit Hawaii?” Certainly. But then it wouldn’t have matched the story as succinctly, either.

Could the story have been spiked in favor of finding a more flattering one? Yes, but then we would be putting unjust effort into purposely playing politics against the strain.

All that aside, this paper runs quotes as headlines often. On several occasions, they’ve been used to capture the feeling of people grieving, mourning the loss of a loved one.

“He was a beloved father” could be one. “She will be forever missed” might be another.

Those are used for the same reason. They’re opinions that capture the mood of the sources used in the story. Though the father could very well be beloved, the woman forever missed, they wouldn’t be the newspaper’s opinions.

That’s it. That’s all the explanation we have. We understand that might not change anyone’s mind, and they could very well resend those emails, but news stories are news stories and opinions are just that, opinions — a section inside the newspaper devoted to nothing but opining.

But it’s a pins-and-needles time right now in politics and newspapering. We understand. So clarifying those details matters more than ever.

And to let readers behind the curtain, there have been several occasions where the WHT editorial board disagreed with sources quoted in front page stories, even top of the fold stories.


But whenever we want to take issue with that publicly, we do so on this opinion page, under this editorial format.

And should we ever wish to publicly support or disparage the president of the United States of America, it’s here, in the opinion section, where that would be done, as well. Not in a front page headline.