2:44 pm Dec. 2, 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: The most famous headline of the Daily News, and so few remember that it was the Daily News that did it. President Ford never told New York City to "drop dead," but that was the (fair) characterization that made the front page of the News on Oct. 30, 1975. Today, we get "GOP TO CITY JOBLESS: DROP DEAD!"
In the original version, there was no exclamation point. And in a way, the sparseness of the page, looking back, is a big part of its matter-of-fact allure, back when the paper was 15 cents and it was still called "New York's Picture Newspaper." One wonders if new helmsman Kevin Convey has been scrabbling through the old flat files, looking for some of the DNA that made the News great at one time. This is a pretty cheap stab at bringing it back: a bit more Weekend at Bernie's than resurrection.
What's the story here? Well! It's about old Convey enemy and new senator Scott Brown of Massachusetts. Columnist Michael Daly makes … hold on, counting … four puns taken from Dickens' A Christmas Carol to describe Brown's "decisive vote on Tuesday [that] kept Congress from extending unemployment benefits that will now run out for 2 million Americans during the holiday season." This, even as he plans a holiday party Daly describes as "a must-do, don't-miss event for anybody with a stony heart who otherwise has little opportunity to go out during the season of tiresome cheer and goodwill." Talk about Bah! Humbug! (Actually that is a paragraph of the article.) Basically, every line is quotable for its ridiculous purpleness, but we'll stop there. Because there is other "news" today!
Rihanna is "among" those nominated for a Grammy! This gets us a picture of someone pretty, and saves us from having to look at a picture that might have illustrated "the baleful eyes of the unemployed" and ruined our Season's Good Cheer.
The New York Post: As shockingly stupid as the News' front page is today, it's basically not a fair fight. The Post has given over most of its front page to sell the when-they-feel-up-to-it Page Six magazine insert. It's "free inside," according to the giant red text rubric above the main picture-box, which seems a disappointment to those of us who feel we have to be paid to read it. That it is a "72-page glossy" is not, I think, a selling point. Jesus Luz is the cover star, but the bullet-pointed ideas about what lies within ("Kim Kardashian - Glamour - Fashion - Gifts"), if only for the fakely-glamorous British spelling of glamor, are enough to ensure that no sane person will pick up this advertiser fodder.
It's consequently almost incumbent upon us to ignore the story beneath—which is actually kind of fascinating. It appears that Gov. Paterson has confessed to the Post that his time in office has made him reliant on advisers to compensate for his blindness in a way he hadn't been before he took office.
"I've gotten soft," the governor tells the Post in the teaser that jumps off Page One. "I'm a shell of the man I was before I became governor."
Having met the man, we can confirm that his candor and complete lack of self-importance are his most charming aspects. Casual commentary from Paterson could drive covers for days on end, if a reporter would only get on the phone with him every day. In a lot of ways it's sad: what governor would do this to himself? But in other ways it's refreshing: what governor would do this to himself?
Observations: Well, the readers are not the clients for today's Post. The advertisers, usually "third payers," are. That the Post doesn't know how to finesse the matter is its own fault. Basically there is no conscionable way to recommend the paper as the winner today. That the News happens to have such an infuriating and embarrassing effort at reminding us they once mattered is a lucky thing, happening as it does on the day the Post essentially sells out the reader and forfeits.
Winner: Daily News.