The Front: June 24, 2010
Each day, the New York tabloids vie to sell readers at the newsstands on outrageous headlines, dramatic photography, and, occasionally, great reporting. Who is today's winner?
The New York Post: File under You Can't Fire Me, I Quit: "OUT ON HIS BRASS!" reads the wood of today's Post, with a deck reading "Obama sacks top general for blasts at war chiefs."
Now let's take a look inside. The lead: "President Obama got rid of bigmouthed Gen. Stanley McChrystal yesterday and immediately replaced the top commander in Afghanistan with one of the military's most respected four-stars, Gen. David Petraeus. Obama said he accepted McChrystal's resignation with 'considerable regret' at a private White House meeting yesterday—a day after the release of a bombshell magazine profile in which McChrystal trashed Obama's top advisers." It's probably only a technicality. The fact that Petraeus was on hand for a meeting immediately after the McChrystal exit while the now-former general headed to his barracks in D.C. means that if the resignation weren't a foregone conclusion he would have been fired. But that makes it hard to understand the drama here. More difficult to understand is this grainy picture of a dejected looking McChrystal. Credited to the AP, it looks like a serious crop on a seriously distant shot. Was it very important to capture McChrystal in the moment of the piece?
While the debate continues over whether Americans care about the World Cup, the tabloids take a gamble that at the very least, Landon Donovan's late, winning goal in added time is the stuff of legend. "World Cup miracle!" trumpets the Post, and one wonders whether they are waiting out the narrative to see if it can be retroactively dubbed the "Miracle on Grass." (The U.S. plays Ghana Saturday afternoon.)
Daily News: The News chose a pensive and stern Obama as its McChrystal cover star. And once again, instead of carrying the wire report, the News fronts the analysis that heads off its package on McChrystal. More and more, the News is seeming to understand what value a print newspaper can add in the morning after a story has apparently hit the saturation point.
But the News has something else up its sleeve too: Yesterday's revelations, probably also widely read and generated from a TMZ report, that a year ago, clean-as-a-whistle Met Johan Santana was accused of rape. The charges were dismissed for lack of evidence, and a Mets spokesman characterized the episode as a "he-said-she-said" situation. Of course its impossible to say with the information we have what happened on that golf course in Florida near the Mets' Spring Training headquarters. But whatever did happen, it's not possible to reconcile with Santana's image as a clean-living family man. Still: "JOHAN SEX SHOCK" is a hard headline to understand. Is the idea that the sex must have happened, whether it was consensual or not, so Santana is at best a philanderer and at worst a rapist? Something about this whole construction doesn't quite gel. In a red box, "COPS DROP ASSAULT PROBE AS PROSECUTOR BALKS." I looked at the page for a while before I dug into the article. Here's what I thought was happening: Johan Santana had sex with someone; the prosecutor balked; so they dropped an assault probe."
Observations: Not a great day for the tabloids, eh? There's plenty going on but very little of it in the tab's reporting wheelhouse. The Post has to cadge inside reporting from Fox News, and the News has to lead with analysis on McChrystal. On soccer, it's harder to tell: It seems like the Post leads its package with an AP story, depending on which article in the package is being played on page 1. I'd call that a draw except for the play: Once again, the Post can't seem to get ahead of the news cycle on the story, so why give it so much of the wood? And why use such an inert picture to sell it? And also once again, the News gives more play to the local story. The Santana scandal may have broken on TMZ, but at least it's something. And these three faces—Landon, Obama, and Santana—have more drama in their earlobes than ten fuzzy "McBigmouths."
Winner: Daily News.