Irish eyes are smiling, but Mr. Met’s are frowning!

Today's tabloids, Feb. 11, 2011. ()
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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: We'll begin on the left, with the close-up of Lindsay Lohan in the painted-on white dress she wore to her court date earlier this week, which makes the Post cover for the second day in the row. This one's more of a closeup, and the whole photo is used to run along the left margin. Right below Lohan's breasts, white outline type in an odd treatment—all caps, italics black outline, drop shadow, and underlines with black outlines and drop shadows all to themselves read "THAT DRESS." "How Lindsay turned a perp walk into a catwalk" reads the dek. Inside: Women clamoring for the textured, form-fitting, mid-thigh-length tube dress that outraged/fascinated/turned on the tabloids yesterday.

It takes a photomontage artist to redraw Mr. Met so that he doesn't have that silly smile, and giant eyebrows. But the Post has gone there today to broadcast Phil Mushnick's column, arguing that the Wilpons are toast. It seems a little late in the game to come to a revelation so broad on the topic (hat tip to Howard Megdal).

And now to the main story. The Front is really all about how the stories are sold on the front, but sometimes reading the articles, which is cheating, is the only way to assess the cover decisions. And today, reading to the end of the New York Post piece, I'm having a hard time deciding. So I am going to reposition the events in the order in which they happened and then we'll talk about the cover treatment.

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Michael Bloomberg was invited to speak at an event celebrating a book celebrating the 250th anniversary of the St. Patrick's Day Parade at the American Irish Historical society, around the corner from his 79th Street townhouse along Fifth Avenue.

The mayor made a show of buying a copy of the book with cash at the event, and radio host Adrian Flannelly told the crowd, "People in this neighborhood are usually reluctant to dip into their pocket."

Mr. Bloomberg then spoke, saying, "I live in the neighborhood, right around the corner. Normally, when I walk by this building, there are a bunch of people that are totally inebriated hanging out the window. I know that's a stereotype about the Irish, but nevertheless, we Jews around the corner think this."

"Laughs, boos and groans" emanated from the crowd, according to the Post report.

Then the website irishcentral.com reported that some in the audience interpreted the remark as an ethnic slur. The Post got some reactions yesterday, but not before the mayor apologized. So while one unnamed "official" in the crowd told the Post that "some people took it as a personal or ethnic [slur]," Council Speaker Christine Quinn and prominent Manhattan attorney Brian O'Dwyer both cited his record on Irish and Irish-American issues, said the remark was a mistake, but pointed to his apology, in which he said he was referring to the party held at the society every year during the parade during which attendees cheer out the window.

"IRISH STEW," reads the main hed in giant, black letters. "Bloomberg drunk 'joke' raises ire." "Irish eyes were frowning …" begins the lede.

Daily News: The Daily News carries essentially the same report, minus the remarks made about the mayor's purchase of the book (which seems like it might have been relevant), but on the other hand including a condemnation of the mayor's comment in stronger terms from the chairman of the St. Patrick's Day Parade committee than anything we found in the Post. The story is sold here, on the bottom of the page with big type, indicating "news," usually. (Whether this qualifies will be discussed forthwith!) But the type, instead of the usual white or black on the reverse background, is white on a sort of kelly green that, to my eyes, is recessive and makes the story, despite the type size, the least prominent one on the page.

The News also saw fit not to ignore the admittedly non-local but obviously most important story in the world that developed yesterday. Granted, it appears that it didn't take long today for the take to become outdated, but it was worth a laugh to see Hosni Mubarak, photoshopped wearing a Pharaoh's khat under the headline "CLING TUT." "MUBARAK WON'T GO" reads the deck, pointing out that there are two pages of coverage inside.

But the top of the page goes to three women, holding hands and walking into the surf on a beach wearing bikini bottoms (and no tops!). Apparently a craven "Harlem rapper" is being sued by the "topless beachgoers" because video he was taking of them appeared in a music video he produced without their approval. "SWIM SUIT" reads the hed, in small type. Because after all neither the name of the rapper nor any details about the suit are the point here. The point was to exploit photos of topless women for the cover of the News. Maybe another "SWIM SUIT" is on its way? Probably not. All the women happily spoke to the paper.

Observations: Was today such a bad day for news that this already-tamped-down kerfuffle over the drunk remarks, which most of the Irish people at that event probably had to pretend to be infuriated about on behalf of their constituents, but which in context probably offended few or none, and for which Christine Quinn probably had to heave a deep sigh before giving the requisite admonition followed by an imprecation to "move on," should rule the front page? Well, perhaps. The tabloids must serve outer-boroughs Irish Catholics as a core constituency. (And lest I be accused of speaking out of turn: I am one myself! Though that really doesn't come into it, does it? Except that trading in ethnic slurs among friends, almost as a satire on the form, was a part of my boroughs upbringing, and rarely led to problems. Unless we were drunk.) The crowd was savvy enough to get the "Jewish" joke implicit in Adrian Flannelly's remarks. It's just that Bloomberg lacked something on the subtlety score. And the cat was out of the bag: The Irish American press was talking about it, and so it was necessary for the tabs to do their bit. Let's just say that they've used up about 10 percent of the wood we will allot them for March 17 and 18th, now, and … move on.

So given that the papers had to trot out this "Irish eyes are not smiling" nonsense, let's penalize neither for them and go hed-to-hed: "BLOOMY'S BLARNEY" in white on green vs. "IRISH STEW" in black on white. I think the Post wins here. The News, somewhat dully, places the blame on Bloomberg, while the Post manages a nice enough quip simply pointing out that there was a furor.

But Phil Mushnick and this recycled Lindsay nonsense is almost too much to be borne. I resent the topless bathers, but at least it's news of a sort, and I really think the Mubarak thing is too big to be ignored on the wood. So, heaving a big sigh:

Winner: Daily News.