Astronomy has now become the second most common topic of British newspaper articles about Hawaii, according to a survey of stories published by a leading London newspaper. The fact that Hawaii houses the world's greatest astronomical observatory may be more obvious to the citizens of the United Kingdom than to the citizens of Hawaii.
What does the rest of the world learn about Hawaii? The electronic age has now made it easy to find out, at least in one corner of Europe.The Daily Telegraph is a respected, somewhat conservative, daily newspaper published in London. Every day since November 1994, it has placed dozens of stories from its paper version onto its free World Wide Web site at http://www.telegraph.co.uk/ The editors of the Electronic Telegraph provide software tools for automatically searching through its back issues. For fun, I asked for a list of all articles and stories published in the last two and a half years containing the word "Hawaii" .
After eliminating a number of irrelevant stories (such as the adventures of an undistinguished British racehorse named "Hawaii Storm") I was left with 103 articles that referred in some way to the State of Hawaii: roughly one every nine days. The accompanying table shows the how often different topics were discussed in these articles.
Not surprisingly, the most common subject matter was vacationing in Hawaii, either real (as for President Clinton), imagined (for lottery winner aspirants) or fictional (Superman's honeymoon). Cruises and Haleakala bike rides make Hawaii look good; the mugging of a British tourist did not.
Astronomy came second, with articles about asteroids, comets, planets, galaxies, and the Big Bang. All referred to Mauna Kea Observatory or to the University of Hawaii, either explicitly or implicitly. Hawaii was featured in seven other science or environment articles: coral reefs, volcanoes, tree snakes, rats, sharks, evolution and climate change.
The most commonly mentioned sports were yachting and golf, reflecting a common Anglo-Hawaii interest in these endeavors. Volleyball, basket ball and baseball were never mentioned; neither were cricket nor soccer. Surfing appeared twice. Historical events were brought up twice (Cook's voyage and the Pearl Harbor attack) while in seven other articles Hawaii served only to provide a geographic reference point for an incident elsewhere in the Pacific, such as a fire on a ship or a plane crash.Six articles mentioned movies or TV shows made in Hawaii, including "Hawaii Five-0," "The Bounty", and "Picture Bride." Three stories profiled or mentioned women born in Hawaii, though not currently resident here; Dr. Wendy Lee Gramm, (spouse of Sen. Phil) Sandy Pflueger (spouse of Princess Anne's ex) and Nicole Kidman,
Our astronomy "industry" tends to be under-appreciated at home, where most people point to tourism as our best economic hope. This glimpse at how one paper views the Islands from afar show that there's more than one way to attract the world's attention to Hawaii.
Gareth Wynn-Williams (email@example.com)