11:59 am Jan. 5, 20111
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: Does The New York Post have a foot obsession? I found myself thinking this yesterday when the Post fronted a story about Rex Ryan saying the word "foot" in an entirely other context but supposing that it could have been a painful bite of the madeleine for him, having weathered the foot-fetish online video scandal of his marriage.
Today, the Post fronts a wisp of a story about whether it's appropriate for the president to wear flip-flops. To buy snow-cones for his daughters on the beach in Hawaii on vacation.
Let's put aside the inanity of the story. (It is inane. In fact it quotes several people as authorities who themselves mock the premise of the Post's story, and only one source, mystifyingly granted anonymity, who supports it by suggesting Vladimir Putin wouldn't be photographed dead in flip flops. To which we can only say that Putin has, however, been photographed shirtless stroking a horse, shirtless hunting with a submachine gun, and in a giant fur hat doing shots with Silvio Berlusconi.)
A small, jokey sale that acknowledged the paper was just trying to have a bit of fun would surely have done for the front page, right? Instead, one of those really serious headlines which goes on and on is presented in knockout type on a blue field next to a picture of Obama in shorts and flip-flops that reads, "Should the leader of the free world dress like this—even on vacation?" Answer: Sure.
The big play is especially puzzling given the significant piece of news that occupies the rest of the page. "FEDS SNOW PROBE" reads the square on the lower right in what is the blackest type on the page (and therefore has to be considered the lead story). "Conspire shocker in sanit outrage" is the somewhat impenetrable dek, but if you've been keeping up with the Post through Blizzardgate you know what they're talking about. It seems the Post's stories, funneled in by Dan Halloran, the Queens councilman who subscribes to the New Normannii Reik of Theodish Belief, a branch of Germanic neopaganism, have prompted a federal investigation. Anonymous sanitation guys told Halloran that they wanted the mayor to suffer the consequences of his budget cuts to sanitation and ordered a work slowdown plowing the blizzard. It's pretty serious stuff, actually: It looks like investigations are underway by both the Brooklyn and Queens district attorneys' offices as well as the Brooklyn U.S. Attorney's office. Is this story, finally bearing fruit after two previous covers popularized the accusations, really obliged to share space with the flip-flop story?
Daily News: The News has something to say about the way the city handled the blizzard too! But it's more boring. Was Michael Bloomberg in town during the blizzard weekend? Nobody will say! Well if he was not in town, who was in charge? The fact that if they won't say whether the mayor was in town, and can't possibly answer who was running the city during the blizzard in his (non?)-absence, does not keep the News from doing a non-exhaustive list of the deputy mayors who might have been given the steering wheel and determining that at least two of the seven of them were out of town. Does this make any sense to you? "SO WHO WAS ON THE JOB?" asks the news in giant black type. "Top city brass AWOL as blizzard took aim" is the dek.
Well never mind, there's also … this! "BROOKLYN'S DON DIVA IS AT IT AGAIN!" There's a picture of Foxy Brown holding up her hand the way women generally hold up their hands to display an engagement ring, but there's no ring. Should we figure out what this is? Nah! And there's a little squib advertising a writeup of the Knicks' win.
Observations: Well it's an easy one today, even though the Post was a total weenie. The flip-flop story is really stretching patience, but they're right to front the story of the sanitation department and not worry about who was technically "in charge" the weekend of the blizzard. The point is, this problem belongs to Bloomberg and the sanitation department, not Howard Wolfson or Patti Harris. The Foxy Brown piece brings some sex appeal and pop to the front page of the News but there's not enough ballast in the "AWOL" story to keep it on the ground.
Winner: The New York Post.