Diamond girls and boys, cops and guns

Today's tabloids, August 9, 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: It's perhaps fitting that the Monday after a weekend shootout with police in Harlem left two dead and several injured (a story the Post covers inside the paper today), the tabloid touts an exclusive leak from a two-year-old investigation into retired police officers who can add social security benefits to their pensions by claiming psychological disabilities while still being permitted to carry licensed handguns that generally are not allowed to people who claim those same disabilities. "GUN NUTS: Cops fake psych woes for $$ - but keep pistols," reads the most prominent display copy on the lower right of today's wood. I should specify that there is no "exclusive" snipe on the wood, though online editions carry the little tag against the story.

But the top of the page is the real attention-grabber: a jewel-bedecked head-and-shoulders shot of model Naomi Campbell next to the headline "Bloody lies!" This story really has everything the Post could want: Controversial model with both lowbrow and highbrow associations testifies—in the Hague!— in the trial of former Liberian president Charles Taylor, alleged war criminal. It seems both sides agree that Taylor made a gift of diamonds to Campbell that were "blood diamonds"—illegally mined diamonds traded on the black market to fund vicious rebel groups in Africa (in this case, Sierra Leone). Campbell had testified that she had no idea that the diamonds were suspect, and that she had never heard of Liberia when she met Taylor. We have no difficulty believing either statement, in principle! But unfortunately Campbell's braggadocio may have gotten the better of her: her former agent, Carole White, testified that Campbell knew she was getting a gift of diamonds from the dictator. And actress Mia Farrow testified that the next morning at breakfast, Campbell was excitedly telling the story of her diamond gift.

Oh, and it looks like an afterthought, this little box on the lower left touting Derek Jeter's passing Babe Ruth in hits: his second-inning single last night was the 2,874th in his career. It had to come sometime, right? Wake me up when he gets to 38th place in all-time hits.

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Daily News:The News also features cops with guns today, but in this case they are actually firing the guns—a lot."WILD FIRE: Vest saves cop from police bullet in 50-shot Harlem gunfight" reads the wood, pointing to the story of a weekend barbecue in Harlem that went very, very badly. 22-year-old Luis Soto, who was at the center of the melee because of a fight with Angel Alvarez, 23, died after sustaining six gunshot wounds; Alvarez is expected to recover after taking 21 bullets.

Cops say that in the gunfight, at which a total of 50 shots were fired, Soto was killed by Alvarez. But since ballistics show Alvarez's gun only fired four shots, that leaves two sustained by Soto that must have come from an NYPD revolver. "Plainclothes NYPD Officer Michael Tedeschi, 36, was hit in the chest by another cop's bullet, but survived thanks to his bulletproof vest. Another cop was grazed in the hand." Mayor Bloomberg held up the hero-vest at a press conference. Yes, it certainly does seem like cops need those things if they're going to be going with other cops to gunfights.

At the top of the page, you'll find a starting gate pictured with yellow type that reads "HOLD YOUR HORSES." This refers to state comptroller Tom DiNapoli saying, again, that the new boss of Off Track Betting's $125,000 monthly payout is bad, because the OTB is bleeding money. It feels old. In fact we defy you to find this story online at all unless it is referring to a story from the last week of July in which DiNapoli appears to have said essentially the same thing. So, no link here!

Finally, in the same place as the Post, the News manages a slightly fancier treatment (including a blue-to-transparent gradient! We don't know anything about that trick around here…) of Jeters 2,384th, with display that reads "JETER THE LEADER." Apparently it wasn't important enough, or good-looking enough, to go with just "2,384" in giant type.

Observations: Let's call the Jeter story a wash. As one commenter has pointed out to me before, when there's a minor sports story on the front page of the tabs, which have perfectly accessible back pages for sports display, it means the news desk "took a powder." We're left with Naomi Campbell and scummy NYPD retirees versus Tom DiNapoli and an epic Harlem gun battle. I'm prepared to say the News wins on the shootout, the Post on Naomi. But where does that leave us?

Media elites will give more credit to the Post on Naomi than the News on the shootout. And there's no question the display on the News story doesn't capitalize enough on the drama: there are too many ideas here. The sheer quantity of bullets; the questions about responsibility; the life-saving vest. The News needed to pick one and go with it. What's here is generic.

But are Post readers willing to go along for the ride about a complicated Hague trial and conflicting testimony about Blood Diamonds? I'm going to stake today's decision on an optimistic point of view on that question.

Winner: The New York Post.