9:45 am Aug. 19, 20102
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 was just yesterday that we agreed that the tabloids needed to step up their game on the mosque story if they were going to give it so much play. This is a local story with national legs: if the Post and the News are reduced to rehashing the stories being told on cable television all day long yesterday, what's the point?
Today, the Post's bid on this is actually a little obvious—and while they are not the only ones to cover it, they are the first to make real hay out of it. "MULLAH MOOLAH" reads the main hed; "Iran cash might fund mosque at G. Zero" is the deck. Nevermind that it is not a mosque any more than a YMCA is a church; and that it is not, except by the widest stretch, "at" Ground Zero. Let's focus on "Iran cash might fund ..." There is truth in advertising here, of a sort, if only because there is a text-teaser for the piece on the cover. Shall we read?
The developers of the Ground Zero mosque are refusing to flat-out reject cash for the project from Holocaust-denying Iranian nuke nut Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
"I can't comment on that" was the reply of mosque spokesman Oz Sultan yesterday when asked specifically if the fund-raising would extend to Iran and Saudi ..."
Nevermind that twisting around Oz Sultan, given his lack of experience in political flacking, is like shooting fish in a barrel: the Post has the story fair and square (though as Sultan's tweetstream keeps emphasizing, they've got no money at all yet, so it's a little rich to start deciding where not to get it from). Nevertheless: fair and square.
But the Post seems to have had a slight sugar-rush last night at press-time too: the boxes at the top of the page are, well, kinda huge. Over a cheap-shot photo of "Jersey Shore"'s Snooki wailing her way through a bumper car ride with a ballcap on which you can just make out the word "Bitch" in Black-Letter type are the words "Snooki charged—as a pest!" Apparently the reality-television star was hit with a charge of "annoying others at the beach" (I wish I had known these last 20-odd years that that was illegal!) stemming from a drinking bout in Seaside Heights on July 30. And then there is an exposé involving what happens to a sack of onions and checkout that I can't find the link to.
Daily News: The News also has its bid today for original reporting from the IRAN TERROR MOSQUE. "NICE JOB, KID!" reads the main hed for a story that promises the "wacky tale of teen who helped pick mosque site." Of course, we read it yesterday in the Observer thanks to Dana Rubinstein, but Michael Daly gets credit for the follow-up call! I'll quote Dana here instead of Michael to fill you in:
['Mosque' developer Sherif] El-Gamal and his wife were walking along 57th Street and entered a Sharper Image store."And I saw this young man by the name of Francisco Patino, who was on this reality show called American Inventor," he said. "I don't watch TV, but for some reason, I saw this show a couple of times. He was a young 18-year-old kid, but I loved his passion and he stuck in my head."
Mr. El-Gamal said he approached Mr. Patino, and two weeks later, Mr. Patino was his employee. He gave him a map and told him to find a development site in Tribeca south.
"And it had nothing to do with the World Trade Center site," Mr. El-Gamal said. He repeated himself, this time more slowly: "It had nothing to do with the World Trade Center site. It had to do with me being an American, a New Yorker who has particular religious beliefs and wants to help his community."
Anyway, "Literally within two weeks, or within a month of him being here, he made a call and we found the Burlington site. And, when we found that site, he called a guy, who said, 'Oh, good timing, my son is showing the building tomorrow afternoon, and we want to sell.'"
Read the Observer's full profile of El-Gamal here. Or, you know, buy the Daily News. Hey, at least they didn't steal from television!
Also, two boxes on top today! You can "meet the newest monster burger" or find out something obscure about the Yankees, which they are telling you to look at the back page for anyway. Oh dear. And did you know that President Barack Obama decided to back the healthcare bill for 9/11 workers because of the News' coverage of the piece? No? Neither did I until I saw the red stripe at the bottom of the front page that read, "NEWS GETS ACTION: BAM BACKS 9/11 HEALTH BILL"! Anyway I hope they are celebrating their historic victory right now. They say newspapers are the first draft of history, but I want rewrite.
Observations: Since probably not many of the tabloid-buying public have yet read the Observer piece, I can't penalize the News for stealing it; unfortunately that old trick usually works just fine in the tabloid wars. But I would sure like to. Anyway, it doesn't matter, since the thin mosque-related story from the Post rises to a much higher level of significance. This Colombian reality-television star is not going to figure much in the politics of position-taking on the mosque in Washington or among local electeds, after all. We'll call the onion-bag and the monster-burger even; and give the Post a slight edge for Snooki news over Yankees non-news.
Winner: The New York Post.