8:42 am Aug. 20, 20103
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?
Daily News: We've noted before that on Fridays, especially in the dog days of summer, the News has a tendency to get celebrity faces on the wood cheaply by fronting a movie review. But usually there is a newsworthiness to the review: five stars means something is really an important movie, one star means it's a total bomb. On today's wood, the News asks a question it already has the answer to: "IS 'SWITCH' A TURN-ON?" Answer: No! Two stars. Jennifer Aniston is a bore, Juliette Lewis is deadly; the film, based on a short story by Jeffrey Eugenides, is second-rate Ephron directed by second-rate Apatow. Jason Bateman swims against the tide, but drowns in the script. It's a nicely written review. But, why is it on the front?
"DOPE!" is a nice pun. There's a picture of Roger Clemens. "Lupica: You have you & your big mouth to blame for indictment," reads the deck. And a red stripe beneath an anodyne photo of Roger Clemens reads "INSIDE THE CASE AGAINST CLEMENS: PAGES 4-5 & SPORTS." It would be cheating to tell you what the hell they are talking about: If you read the News regularly, or if you watched television last night, you'll know. But, doesn't the newspaper have an obligation to tell you what the news is? Normally annoying for pretending something just happened that happened yesterday, the front page of the News today pretends you have already read the story inside. While we're at it, the story inside is very, very good; but we'll get to that later.
The New York Post: One almost wonders whether the information on the front of today's Post will help people understand the front of today's News: "STRIPE THREE!" reads the main hed; thanks to a photo composite of Clemens' head superimposed on a film-set black-and-white prison jumpsuit, you'd have to be a complete boob not to get the joke. The Yankees pitcher (pictured in the vertical pinstripe in an inset photo) has run out of chances. "Indicted Roger faces 30 years for steroid 'lies.'" The fact that the head on this photo composite makes Clemens look like an oompah-loompah (it's too big for the body) could either be an intentional visual joke or just the Post wanting to keep things slapdash: working at The New York Observer I was once spending way too much time on the layout of a photo-silhouette driven piece to get it to look prettier. My boss came in, clapped me on the shoulder and whispered in my ear, "Remember, don't make it look too good." That feeling of familiarity you get with the reader when your joke looks effortless, just pretty enough to get the point across and no prettier, is conveyed in the tiny type on the lower-right-hand corner of the page: "Yes, it's a Post photo composite," reads the caption.
Observations: Regular readers of the sports sections of both tabs know how seriously the News has always taken the steroid scandals. While not a regular source of exclusives on the steroid beat, news bumps in the long-running Major League Baseball scandal get loving care from the editorial staff, and today is no different. There are original interviews with principals in the case, a detailed analysis of all the evidence the U.S. Attorney has on hand (which include photographs of spent needles that tested positive for Clemens' DNA). Whereas the Post just rehashes the headlines from yesterday's indictment and copies out some of Roger Clemens' tweetstream (which is incredibly articulate if you consider that Clemens is probably only capable of typing whatever letters result from punching the keyboard repeatedly with both fists). So we have a funny thing today: the Post prints a front page that makes it unnecessary for you to read the story; the News prints a front page that you can't understand unless you've already read the story. Which, if you are a reader being courted by both papers at the newsstand, you haven't.
Winner: The New York Post.