Behind the scenes: Ferris Bueller and Knute Buehler

How we settled on the headline for our profile of Knute Buehler.

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Buehler? Buehler…?  Buehler…?

Will readers get the headline? 

Of the many questions we asked ourselves while reporting our profile of Knute Buehler, this was the biggest headscratcher.  For those of you who didn’t get it,  the inspiration was the famous scene in the equally famous 1986 movie, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.

The joke occurs when a teacher (played by Ben Stein) repeatedly calls Ferris Bueller’s name while he is taking attendance.

The teacher is waiting for a response from his students, who never respond.

We decided to run the story with the Bueller/Buehler pun because it seemed a perfect fit for a profile of an aspiring governor struggling for name recognition.  Where is Knute Buehler?  Who is Knute Buehler?  Will Oregonians respond to his candidacy?

But there were some dissenters, even on the OB staff.   “I don’t get it,” said research editor Kim Moore matter-of-factly after looking at the headline.

Kim admitted her knowledge of American pop culture was limited.  “I’m British,” she said.  “I miss a lot of things.”

knutetimOn the campaign trail:  Reporter Tim Neville interviewing Rep. Knute Buehler in January.  (Jason E. Kaplan)

What did reporter Tim Neville think?  Well, independently of the OB editorial team, he had come up with the same headline. 

At first.  But then he had second thoughts.

“With the Ferris reference, I feel like the dek needs a nod to ‘has anyone seen him?'” Tim wrote in an email.  Our dek focused on Buehler’s effort to become the first Republican in years to win the governorship.

Tim suggested an alternative headline:  “Buehler on the run.”

I made an executive decision and nixed that idea. It seemed too deer in the headlights-ish. 


The Ferris Bueller quote has become a trope, something people say when they are unsure of what to say. Buehler is struggling both to become a household name and articulate a position that will win the hearts and minds of all Oregonians, on the left, the right and the center.

It is a good fit — as long as you get the reference and are in on the joke.

Coda: Republicans at the Dorchester Conference dealt a blow to Buehler on Saturday by selecting retired U.S. Navy pilot Greg Wooldridge during a gubernatorial straw poll. The right-leaning attendees expressed concerns about Buehler’s moderate positions on several issues.  The primary election is May 15.

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