7:12 am Jul. 1, 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: Remember yesterday, when we said that the Murphys, the humdrum couple from New Jersey accused of spying for Moscow, wouldn't start looking interesting until the criminal complaint against them was unsealed? Well, it's unsealed. And the Post has made it today's wood. "SPYVY LEAGUE" reads the main hed: Confirming some avid Post partisans' dim view of higher education, Cynthia Murphy was sent to get an "executive MBA" at Columbia University, where she was instructed by her spymasters to get close to fellow students whom she could profile for Moscow to assess their "vulnerability" as recruitment targets; befriend and encourage fellow students who might go to work for the Central Intelligence Agency, and college professors who might have "secret info" about United States nuclear policy toward Russia, its policy in Iran and the war in Afghanistan.
The front page sells the story straight: A paragraph of teaser text in body type explaining that Murphy "allegedly worked for her spy masters to recruit classmates and professors." But, wait: Why is the "Spy Who Loved Us," the "sexy" "flame-haired" Anna Chapman taking up most of the front page? The next graph of the teaser text explains that well enough: she "attended parties" where, officials charge, she "[schmoozed] the city's movers and shakers to try to get inside info on politics and business deals." The pretty but conventional-looking Murphy gets a little box in the lower-right-hand corner, where she's wearing an Eastern Mountain Sports fleece; Chapman gets the full silhouette and is wearing some kind of baby-blue bodice with lace, her face turned in a come-hither one-quarter rotation to the reader. "Come read about this wonky spy lady," she seems to be whispering. "Because they don't actually have anything to say about me today."
Daily News: It was a game of chicken, and the Daily News won: there is not a mention anywhere on the News wood of the ongoing spy scandal (though inside the News covers the story). Instead they've gone for an editorial cover: "SIGN HIM!" reads the big wood with a picture of a sly-looking LeBron James to its left. "Just do what you have to do. Say what you have to say. But bring Mr. James here." The city's already preposterously public campaign to woo James to one of the two local, failing basketball franchises gets a news bump today when Knicks bigs meet with him to discuss incentives. And so the Daily News writes a bad bad poem about it. Sample lines: "Give him New York. Give him the world. Pay what must be paid. Say what must be said. Do what must be done. Just bring him home. Bring home Mr. James. / To the managements of the Knicks and the Nets: Success is your only option. You dare not fail. Get it done. / Bring home Mr. James." Also: "Lucky indeed are Messrs. Dolan and Prokhorov to have such a place at their backs." And may the wind always be at those backs and the road rise to meet them and all that!
Let's take comfort in the wild eyes and bared teeth of the "killer raccoon" at the top of the page, one of several apparently running around Central Park these days. After 10 cases of rabies were discovered among the park's raccoons in December, the number has since escalated to 114 this year. 237 raccoons have been trapped and vaccinated since February. "There are big, fat huge families up there," one civilian tells the News. In fact, no human or domestic animal has contracted rabies from the raccoons yet, so "killer" is probably a bum rap for the "furry masked critters." A brief foray into the online edition, which puts a poll on basically every story: "Will the rising number of rabid raccoons put you off going to Central Park?" "Yes, at least if I'm on my own!" reads the first option, which is for really, really stupid people.
Observations:While confirming its readers' belief that academia is full of people who work for the Russians (and I'm subtracting "points" from the Post for dubbing the spy headquarters "Moscow Central"—haven't you watched Tinker, Tailor? It's Center!), the Post manages to finally put a "sexy" picture of Anna Chapman on its cover instead of pictures they tell us are sexy but aren't really. It's too bad they don't really have anything more to say about her inside. But the News' bizarre editorial, which seems to be set to the tune of Milton's "Lycidas," is too terrible to be tolerated.
Winner: The New York Post.