Glory Perez vs. St. Gone’s: Crime-story strength overpowers wire-copy competence

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Today's tabloids, March 18, 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: St. John's forward Justin Brownlee isn't looking happy as he's getting decisively blocked on a long shot in the main photo on the front of today's Post, which mimics the university's basketball-team logo for a headline that reads "Dead STORM." "Johnnies jolted in crushing defeat," reads the dek. And now, New Yorkers who'd hoped to have a bit of basketball they could root for without reservation can hang up their Jerseys for another season, or decide to throw themselves into the Knicks. Yesterday's back cover called them "READY STORM," and Steve Serby wrote one of his signature stream-of-consciousness, Cosell-on-peyote columns describing a dance the Red Storm would do on the court called the "Gone-zaga." Today, after the team's 86-71 defeat at the hands of Gonzaga University, he's calling the team "St. Gone's."

But as is often the case, the big graphic at the top of the page is not the top story. That distinction belongs to the piece below with the big, heavy black type and the lead paragraph jumping off the page.

"BOMBS AWAY," reads the hed, taking up the full width of the page. "UN approves force and no-fly zone vs. Khadafy." There's a postage-stamp picture of the Libyan dictator next to a lead graph that begins, "Finally!"

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Daily News: On Wednesday, a 17-year-old boy and his 11-year-old brother discovered the body of Tina Adovasio in some woods near the Taconic State Parkway. She'd been missing since Friday night; the maternity-ward nurse had last been seen at her Throgs Neck house with her husband, Eddy Coello, a former housing-police officer from whom Adovasio had been seeking a divorce. When it became clear Adovasio was a missing person police began to question Coello, who has faced charges of domestic violence in the past and in the course of his marriage to Adovasio. He's refused to provide a DNA swab to police, who have searched his house, and is described as a "person of interest" in the case.

Today, the Daily News interviews Glory Perez, a former girlfriend of Coello and the mother of one of his children, about her life with the man; it's a harrowing tale that ends in her decision to leave after he struck her so hard, while she held her infant son in her arms, she went to the emergency room. More harrowing are the descriptions of his use of a gun and knife to threaten her. It was Perez's abuse allegations that led to Coello turning in his gun, because Internal Affairs began investigating the case.

Perez is shown on the cover of the Post looking healthy and fit—she and Coello both worked out frequently, and Perez has told cops that while her husband wasn't a drinker, he was a bodybuilder who has at least known friends to take steroids to bulk up. "I'D BE DEAD" reads the knockout-type of the he'd. "Ex-cop eyed in wife's slaying terrorized me, says former lover." The interview's an exclusive.

Observations: Perez is attractive and, somehow, personable in her front-page photo, which seems a churlish observation in the circumstances, but it's important. She's relatable, and this portrait photo has her looking the reader dead in the eyes. The slight smile across her lips seems a little strange: should a more serious face be presented? And it may be that the image I'm looking at is digital, but it seems to me a little red-eye correction was needed here lest the reader think that Glory Perez also has the ability to shoot gamma rays from her eyes. Just the same, she's relatable and the photo is direct; and this is an interview in which, for the most part, Perez tells her own story without ornaments. It's very good.

So what to do with this against the Post's extremely competent treatment of two big news stories that, really, the whole city should care about? The St. John's story is tragic, in a sports way—and to be fair, a blue box at the top of the News wood addresses it with "St. John's: One and done, SEE SPORTS," then devotes its back page to the story. We're missing the Khadafy news here. But isn't that available everywhere, and from surer hands than the local tabloids? To give you an idea of the Post's confidence in its stories, the newspaper's website as of 7 a.m. leads with the A.P. versions of both.

I don't think the competent portrayal of two news stories available to everyone can compete, even if they are both more monumental in lots of ways than a local murder story in theory. And in practice, the News has a lot more to offer on this murder story than the Post does on either St. John's or Libya.

Winner: Daily News.