Wrap me in the Union Jack and send me back to England!

Today's front pages, July 21, 2010. ()
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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: Meet Cheryl Mercuris! She runs a direct marketing company called Quality Resources in Florida and has some resources of her own! The Post interviews her about her two-week summer rental in the Hamptons, where she is hoping to put herself in the way of Wall Street types, for marriage purposes. Meanwhile her kids like to drive around the estate she's rented for $500,000 for the two weeks, on golf carts. And that is "Why this woman paid $500,000 for a two-week rental." Guys, if you meet her and she keeps calling you afterward, put yourself on the Do Not Call Registry.

"Some punk bitch rookie cop named Fisher made the arrest of his bullsh - -t career today." That is the news from rapper-turned-'Law & Order' actor-guy Ice-T after police stopped his white cadillac sedan at the Lincoln Tunnel and arrested him for various violations, including driving with a suspended license and not wearing his seatbelt. He apparently actually called the cop a "punk bitch" during the encounter, which, if his character were the cop, would also have ended in a flat, under-acted arrest. Interviews for this piece include a police spokesperson, Ice-T himself, and Ice-T costar Richard Belzer. The headline: "Real cops bust TV cop Ice T." See because Ice-T plays a cop on television, and it was a cop in real life that arrested him.

And we haven't even gotten to the main story yet! Make that three blown-up surveillance or police shots in the last week for the Post, after running a grainy video still of the BP oil pump and a grainy surveillance-camera photo of a bank robber. But this time, it's Lindsay Lohan. "IT SUITS," reads the headline, and they mean Lohan's orange prison blues. The headline could actually be read two ways: if "suits" is an active verb, and it means "Lindsay Lohan dons prison uniform," then they are calling Lindsay an "it." Are they? Anyway, in a deck that repeats the head but with more words, the Post adds, "Lindsay lovely in jail orange." The story inside is, I take it, not a fashion piece. But I don't plan to read it.

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Daily News:  Whoa! From a distance today's Daily News cover looks like a Jackson Pollock painting. How many colors can we get on a front page anyway? There's a wavy Union Jack graphic on a black background. Floating above that is a headshot of British Prime Minister David Cameron. At the top of the field is a red snipe with yellow lettering reading "PRIME MINISTER ARRIVES IN N.Y. TODAY." And the main head, in big white type: "BRITISH BULL: Stop ducking, Mr. Cameron, we DEMAND answers about Lockerbie bomb scandal." If you're like me, some little elves yesterday stage-whispered something in the middle distance about Lockerbie, and you considered for a moment looking something up about it, but then decided that the world would slap your face with this story soon enough whether you liked it or not, so why make the effort? Today, the Daily News obliges. Could this sudden Brit obsession on the front page, more typically Post behavior, have something to do with the announcement yesterday that Daily News editor Martin Dunn, a Fleet Street veteran himself, was stepping down? A funny way of waving the Union Jack for him on his way out?

The News also could not resist this latest moment in the saga of Lindsay Lohan's jailbirdiness. Analyzing the same mug shot that fronted the post, but in a much smaller size, the News tsks: "Only LiLo could pout for her mugshot." Because you know, if you are pretty when you go to jail, you have a bad attitude.

Observations: What a strange day! Frankly, the cover of the News today looks great. Atypical and off-message, but great. A friend of mine, remarking once on the redesign of a certain magazine, said, "When I turn to this page, I get a black eye." It was meant as a compliment, and I mean it here, too. The problem is, Joshua Greenman's put-on outrage at the distinctly un-buzzy new British Prime Minister is a little hard to take. Meanwhile, the Post fronts with one completely ridiculous and worthless story, one hysterical Us Weekly story, and one dispensable LiLo story. It's as though the News decided to look like Us Weekly today, and the Post decided to read like it. I kind of like both covers! But I think, today, it's about the people, not the design: Lindsay Lohan, Ice T and a weird telemarketing rich lady? Or Lindsay Lohan and British Prime Minister David Cameron? Look, if I want to think about England, I can do it better in The Times, or by watching 'Masterpiece Theater.'

Winner: The New York Post.