A headline of our lives (5×8 – 1/3/11)

What makes you read an obituary, January, Happy New Hour, Roger Ebert’s voice, and would you rather have your flight canceled or delayed?


The first Monday Morning Rouser of the year might just be enough to get you through every Monday for the rest of the year. Everybody’s job should be this fun.

1) WHAT HEADLINE DESCRIBES YOUR LIFE?

The role of a headline writer in any news organization is to get you to care enough to read the story. A headline repeated from news organization to news organization over the weekend encourages a discussion about how we “headline” a person’s life. A headline that says “Minnesota student shot and killed in Indianapolis,” is probably going to sound like most every other headline on the crime pages. Another senseless death of another faceless individual. Move on.

I had never heard of Dominque Corder. I had never heard of Brainerd Central Lakes College, either. So I, of course, didn’t know that Dominque Corder was the “star quarterback” of Brainerd Central Lakes College. And that headline, I feel guilty saying, was enough to get me to read the article in the Star Tribune on Sunday headlined, “Quarterback of Brainerd football team fatally shot in Indiana.”

For all the wrong reasons.

I’ve always been interested in the last headlines anyone will ever write about people. The Sioux Falls Argus Leader, for example, used to provide pithy headlines on obits (“Purple was her favorite color,” “loved fax machines,” etc.) . They were entertaining, but at the same time, it tended to trivialize the meaning of someone’s life.

Headlines on the death of people should give us an indication why their time on the planet mattered. I wondered if Corder was anything other than a quarterback? The Star Tribune’s story told me he was.

1. He was part of the TEACH Academy, a magnet program for students interested in becoming teachers or working with children.

2. “He was always trying to better himself,” a friend said. “He would do anything for you; he was one of the most kind-hearted people.

3. “All I want for Christmas is my family and a opportunity to make myself smarter than yesterday, work harder than yesterday and learn more than yesterday,” he wrote on his Facebook page.

4. He was shot when he talked to someone in a car playing loud music outside his grandmother’s home.

The Indianapolis Star, which also headlined his athletic position, added this:

“He was always striving to get better, and a very good young man. The thing that impressed me most about him was how driven he was to get a college education. . . . He worked really hard in the classroom and was doing all the right things, which is why this is so tragic.”

Are any of those facts more important than playing football? The Star Tribune and Indy Star weren’t alone in assessing the young man’s life in the headline. The Pioneer Press (“Brainerd / College QB slain in Indianapolis”) and MPR (“QB at Minn. community college shot, killed in Ind.”) were among the many news organizations that viewed the death the same way: The loss of a quarterback at a school few have ever heard of.

“Young man who would do anything for you and wanted to be better killed in senseless Indianapolis shooting.”

I’d read that story.

2) JANUARY

So here it is. The month with the weather that can reduce one to poetry and prayer. City Hall Scoop has unearthed the splendid “Prayer of the Night Shovelers.”

Snow don’t set

Into rock-ice mix.

All that crud

Will take hours to fix.

Fluff stay fluff,

Deeper than past years.

Steel striking concrete

Is music to our ears.

Find more here.

Last Thursday I wrote about the trauma doc at Regions, who wrote on his blog about the number of people who shouldn’t be working on their roof, despite the request from the city of St. Paul to do so. Dr. Mike McGonigal writes that two more people have been admitted to the hospital for falling off a ladder or roof since.

January. There are 47 days until Twins’ pitchers and catchers report for spring training. We’ll take them one day at a time.

Meanwhile, Mark Seeley and the gang at the Climate Center at the University of Minnesota report the new “normal” for this region in January is warmer and wetter. More please.

3) HAPPY NEW HOUR

When are you happiest during the week? Researchers examined 300 million tweets over time and found people are happiest in the early morning and late evening. They’re also happiest on Sunday mornings, and most depressed on Thursday afternoons. Here’s the “mood map.” Red is unhappy and/or depressed. Green is happy.

(h/t: Business Insider)

Visualizations are fun. Or not. Here’s a new one of the U.S. debt as a Tetris game:

4) ROGER EBERT’S VOICE

If you had to start over again, would you? Could you?5) CANCEL OR DELAY?

In last week’s northeast blizzard, there were a few stories of airline passengers being stranded on their planes for up to seven hours. They were all international flights because the U.S. rule prohibiting tarmac delays longer than three hours applies only to domestic airlines.

The Cranky Flier blog says it wasn’t the snow that caused all the canceled domestic flights, it was the rule. Airlines canceled flights rather than risk the possibility of delays extending longer than three hours, reigniting the debate over whether it’s better to delay people’s flights, or simply cancel them.


We were helping some people at Cranky Concierge who sat on the ground for awhile at JFK. One was on a flight that was already canceled and rescheduled for a day later in Amman due to bad weather. Had the flight not been able to go this time, it likely would have canceled again and a lot of people would have had to wait longer to get a seat out of Amman. When the flight left Amman, the expectation was that JFK would be up and running again hours before the airplane arrived. That wasn’t the case because the weather turned out to have a significantly greater impact than predicted.

If the rule goes into effect for international flights, those flights will likely just cancel as a precaution instead of risking the massive fines the DOT has proposed. And if you ask the people on those airplanes, I bet most would rather sit on the ramp than not get to the US for days. (Our client felt that way.)

Bonus: The New York Mills Think-Off question has been set: Does poetry matter?

And one for the New Year: The Hardball Times has done the math on this week’s balloting for the Baseball Hall of Fame. Bert Blyleven, it says here, is in.

TODAY’S QUESTION

A new governor and a new Legislature begin work this week. What should be the top priority for Minnesota’s governor and Legislature this session?

WHAT WE’RE DOING

The number one story today is the inauguration of a new governor. We’ll have live coverage during the day.

Midmorning (9-11 a.m.) – First hour: The future of Twin Cities public schools.

Second hour: Joseph Ellis, Pulitzer Prize-winning author. His new book is “First Family: Abigail and John Adams.”

Midday (11 a.m. – 1 p.m.) – Both hours: Live coverage of the inauguration of Mark Dayton as governor of Minnesota.

Talk of the Nation (1-3 p.m.) – First hour: What’s fair when it comes to Social Security?

Second hour: A major snowstorm in a major city quickly changes from a winter wonderland to a plowing political nightmare. Dealing with a blizzard– or prepping for one that never comes — can bust a city’s budget and make a mayor a hero or a villain.

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) - Full coverage of today’s gubernatorial inauguration.

Matt Bostrom is sworn in this week. He replaces controversial sheriff Bob Fletcher. MPR’s Tim Nelson looks at what changes may be in store – and have happened already – in Minnesota’s most controversial law enforcement agency.

When the Legislature convenes tomorrow, proposed legislation to reverse energy policies developed over the past 15 years will be among those getting first consideration. This week, a House committee will take up measures to repeal the state’s moratorium on new coal and nuclear power plans. Supporters say the changes would help the state broaden its energy options. Critics say the changes would gut the state’s goals toward renewable energy. MPR’s Stephanie Hemphill will have a look.

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    As a professional headline writer, we have only one requirement: It has to fit the space allowed. Now, online in the era of SEO, that isn’t even a requirement. But, how the headline appears for the print product is usually the starting point for that.