12:06 pm Sep. 10, 20101
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: One of the sad things about printing a newspaper is the possibility that the same reason you're putting a story on the wood—because it's big news, say—may be your undoing. "FIRE TRAP," reads the cover of today's Post. "Koran-burn pastor in bizarre flip over GZ mosque 'lie'" is the deck. With someone as blasé about public reaction as Park51-Cordoba House imam Abdul Feisal Rauf on one side, and someone as mentally unbalanced as Florida preacher Terry Jones on the other, the story is full of plot twists that aren't really plot twists—just "Who's on first"–style misunderstandings and plain cuckoo-craziness.
Here's the gist: Jones said he'd scrap plans to hold a mass burning of Korans in commemoration of the Sept. 11 terror attacks and in protest of the plan to build the Islamic center in lower Manhattan until he was told Rauf and the Park51 group were planning to change the location of the mosque. Then, he learned that he had been "misled," and that the book-burning might yet happen. The word he used is "suspended." Keep track of this, because in fact nobody on the Park51 side had spoken to him, and Rauf gave statements to the press yesterday saying there were no plans to move the mosque. Apparently Jones had it that they were, from Florida Imam Muhammad Musri, who had not spoken to the Park51 people. Musri says it was a misunderstanding. It's a nice thing when a plot can have so many turns just based on the bumbling of the main characters, isn't it? But, as of this morning, in an interview with ABC news, Jones says "Right now, we have plans not to do it."
Sometimes a story is so big in the 24-hour news cycle that you need to jump on top of it; other times, it's so big you have to find an "angle" on it to make it work. (Hint!) It's a little strange that the dress on the cover of today's Post comes not from one of the much-sought-after successful grown-up designers who ply their wares each season in the white tents at Fashion Week, but from one of the contestants on the Lifetime television show "Project Runway." All it says in the teaser is "sizzling new styles," and refers us to three pages of fashion-week coverage. Well, two and a half really, of which the vast majority is simply coverage of the "Project Runway" show. In industry terms, it's a sideshow; but who knows what the economics of covering the show may be for news organizations? Still, it's odd, considering that the FASHION WEEK SUPER SPECIAL THREE PAGE SECTION is all about the television-show contestants, only one of whom will even get money to start a sample line, that they don't just bill it as a "Project Runway" story in the first place.
More candy: An NFL bettor's guide. It's on page … oh! doesn't say.
Daily News: The News covers Jones today too, with a red stripe across the top of the page that reads in knockout type: "Wacko Koran pastor waffles on fire." Regular readers will know that when a tabloid story says it's covered on "PAGES 2-3" it doesn't mean you should expect more than about 500 words of coverage. It's definitely on Page 3, but it's just an extension of the photobox accompanying the story that reaches leftward on to Page 2. Anyway. That's not the big sale on the News' wood today, anyway.
For that, consider the piece "THE TREE STOOGES." It's sort of a Fashion Week story! They get the words in a small-type deck at any rate. But it's really about the city Parks Department and Damrosch Park. Trees were taken down because—well, that's not quite clear. Parks says they weren't doing well. Some landscape architects said that they only needed to be freshened up with a little extra water. Anyway the trees were all going to be cut down when the plaza is redesigned as part of Lincoln Center's big re-do. But Gale Brewer says they were taken down to accommodate all the white tents for fashion week. Ladies and gentlemen: This is a story you won't read anywhere else, until maybe Gothamist picks it up.
Observations: Well, the trees story was fine. But is it wood? (Now they are! Ha!) And the pastor story was fine, too, but was that wood? Let's flip through the Post for a second and see if there's something else they could have put up there. OK, done. Nope! What about the News? Ugh, nope. Well, at least the News has something of its own. It's just not something that will move papers. Sometimes you just have to do a story that everyone's doing, and finding the cute angle doesn't work. Today's win, reluctantly, goes to the better bandwagon-jumpers.
Winner: The New York Post.