Inside the controversies, starting with sex

By Chris Carrel, Thinking Locally

Lately, it seems that the F-Dub has been awash in controversy.

Headlines, beauty contests and forms of government, among other things, have inflamed passions and generated debate. All too often, there’s been more heat than light. When we need to make sense of the nonsensical, it’s time for Q&A Federal Way.

Q: It seems like the headlines and articles in this paper have lately been preoccupied with a certain topic. There have even been a few letters from upset readers about the focus on sex. What’s going on?

A: The Mirror has a new columnist, Amy Johnson, a youth and parenting coach, who writes an informative and thought-provoking column about that particular topic.

Q: Yeah, but “Sex in the Suburbs?”

A: I know. When I read that, it made “Thinking Locally” seem like a lame column title.

Q: Who writes the headlines and how is it done?

A: Headline writing is a difficult and arcane art, often performed by a skilled practitioner. The Mirror’s headlines are written by editor Andy Hobbs. He actually spent three years living in a Buddhist temple in Japan learning the ancient Japanese discipline of headline writing, known as Monkey Scratching Words in Sand.

Q: Oh, come on, now. Andy Hobbs, Buddhist monk editor?! What’s really driving the headlines?

A: There’s a saying in the newspaper business that “dog bites man” is old news, but “man bites dog” is a real news story. If the proverbial men aren’t biting dogs, though, sex never fails to grab readers’ attention.

Q: That seems pretty cynical. Do you mean that people won’t read articles about city government or school performance without racy headlines?

A: I hate to break it to you, but we recently had a vote to change our form of city government and nearly two-thirds of the registered voters didn’t even bother to cast a vote on the measure.

Q: Maybe they should’ve had Andy Hobbs write the ballot title?

A: Now, you’re getting somewhere.

Q: Is there a downside to this emphasis, though?

A: The headlines for Amy Johnson’s columns are way more interesting than my headlines. Although last week’s headline (“Stone-cold killer cats thirst for bird blood”) was kind of an attention grabber.

Q: Can anything be done about the headlines?

A: Some believe that it’s time for a “strong editor” form of newspaper production. Look for petitions to start appearing soon.

Q: Speaking of that, backers of the measure to change city government to a strong mayor form failed to gain voter approval. The measure lost, 45 percent to 55 percent. What do you attribute the loss to?

A: Without a scandal or some other rallying cause, it’s difficult to excite people about changing a government.

Q: Given the sizable defeat for the measure, is this a validation of current city manager Neal Beets?

A: That’s an argument some might certainly make. If I were Neal Beets, I’d certainly be making that argument. Of course, if I were on the council, I’d attribute it to public satisfaction with the council’s sagacity. Ultimately, though, I think the vote indicates that people are generally happy with the direction of the city.

Q: So Accountability Comes to Town (ACT) lost big. Are there other losers in the election?

A: I’m tempted to say the taxpayers, who spent $57,000 to put the measure on the ballot so that one in three voters could have their say. However, I think it’s a positive thing to have the public debate that we had over the form of government. Perhaps some citizens learned more about their city government, and ultimately, the voters had their chance to speak; they gave the current system and public officials their support.

Q: Initiative backers aren’t so satisfied with the voters’ decision and say they’ll bring the measure back. If the first debate was so good for us, won’t a second debate be great?

A: Uh, let’s not get carried away. These elections cost real money, you know.

Q: OK. Let’s switch to a contest of another sort. Recently, Federal Wayer Cara Rudd won the Miss Auburn beauty pageant. This incensed some Auburnites. They argued that Ms. Rudd is a citizen of Federal Way, not Auburn, despite the rules allowing nonresidents to compete. Why the hubbub?

A: Auburnites have long been jealous of Federal Wayers’ natural beauty.

Q: If that’s really the case, then why don’t we have our own Miss Federal Way beauty pageant?

A: In addition to being beautiful people, we are modest as well.

Chris Carrel, a lifelong Federal Way resident, is executive director of the Friends of the Hylebos. Contact: chinook@hylebos.org or (253) 874-2005.

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