10:37 am Oct. 18, 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?
Daily News: At first blush, the News has simply given over its front page to another biggish (but slightly disappointing, for a front-page takeover) fall sports story: the Giants increased their winning streak by beating Detroit, 28-20, yesterday. Of course the Jets game was more surprising from a sports fan's point of view, and gets suitably epic treatment on the back page. But a few pointers show why this story is broader in its appeal—and why it would appeal to the Page One team at the News. "FAN FURY" is the main hed today, emblazoned over a photo of running back Ahmad Bradshaw in the midst of the 58-yard fourth-quarter scoring drive that gave the Giants their win. "Cable fight blacks out Giants for 3 million customers" reads the dek. And, since the News often can't let it be that simple, there is a weird "sticker" on the upper left. (Allow a moment of design-nerdiness here: a round blue field with a trompe-l'oeil white "peel-up" in its lower-left quadrant and faux embossing along the right-hand side? Is it an embossed seal, which would be impossible to peel of the page, or a sticker, which wouldn't be? It's just sort of there, a repository of cheap, dated, out-of-the-box photoshop tricks.) Anyway, the weird sticker has white lettering that reads "HERE'S WHAT YOU MISSED" in a hodgepodge of type sizes and weights. Of course, you only missed it if you live in certain parts of the Bronx or Brooklyn, or outside the city, served by Cablevision, and don't have a satellite dish: as you probably already know, Fox and My9 were pulled from Cablevision in the course of a fee dispute between the carrier and the network. But most of you didn't miss it at all, if you cared to watch.
(Note: I've since posted a map of Cablevision's service areas, so you can judge for yourself whether I'm being too flip here.)
That this is a media-business story (not usually heavy front-page material for the News) doesn't matter since it's News Corp., owner of The New York Post and sworn enemy of the News, that's at the center of the dispute. And the Dolans are not favorites over on West 33rd Street either, owners as they are of Newsday (for whom "HERE'S WHAT YOU MISSED" would have been a more fitting front page). The story when you get inside is balanced enough: mostly it does what all the other stories do, which is to go to sportsbars where angry fans have had to go to watch the game. And Helen Kennedy, the writer on the story, seems to give equal time to fans who blame the Dolans and fans who blame Rupert Murdoch. They're not yet angry at anyone in particular, just everyone except Bradshaw.
The New York Post: So it's perhaps not surprising that the Post, whose corporate parent is busy waging a public-relations war against the Dolans to ensure that fans don't blame them for the outage, barely touches this story. Inside the paper 154 words carry one sentence describing the dispute, a statement from News Corp., and a fan comment pulled from Twitter. And needless to say, the story isn't on the cover.
But that's not to say the Post took a powder. Their endorsement of Andrew Cuomo, however lukewarm, takes up most of the top, and the editorial board produces a piece that is as much a chastisement of the G.O.P. for producing no worthwhile candidate as it is a seal of approval on Cuomo's gubernatorial bid, full of cautions about how Albany is such a mess it'd take a superhero to fix it, and premonitions that Cuomo is not a superhero. It's not particularly surprising to see the Post endorsing the Democrat here: they've certainly done it before, even if the overall impression the paper gives is of disdain for the Democratic party. But fronting it and giving it a splash on the front page heightens what surprise there was, and in fact it probably will surprise and draw in lots of regular Post readers. After all, the relationship between the Paladino campaign and Post Albany dean Fred Dicker was enough fun for the whole Post-reading family, whatever their politics.
The lower portion of the page has one of those scandalous, local, deep-dive pieces that is tabloid gold: "At least three educators from city public high schools have been fired in the past six months for having inappropriate dealings with students on Facebook—one of which culminated in a sexual relationship, The Post has learned." Of course there are little provisos in all three cases, but the Post manages to make hay of it in an interview with a Department of Education spokesperson who says there is no policy on Facebook relationships between staffers and students. There should be, no? But most important is the headline, both movie-topical and funny: "SOCIAL NUTWORK," with a dek that reads "Perv teachers stalked kids on Facebook."
Observations: It's too bad for the Post that they didn't decide to just go big reporting on their own parent company today. It's got a great cast of characters—the Dolans, News Corp.— and a sports angle at the center of it that has street value. Unlike lots of high-level media disputes (which the Post would normally produce with relish for the Manhattan elites that like the tabloid's high-altitude dish) and would absorb readers that wouldn't otherwise care. As it is, in the hands of the News, the story is pure retail, and a bore. Michael Grynbaum did a better tabloid story for the Times than the News managed for its wood. We can wish we had an awesome Post cover on this, but strictly speaking, the battle is between what the Post does have today and what the News has.
Winner: The New York Post.