8:08 am Apr. 7, 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?
Daily News: Both tabloids went with full-page covers about Barack Obama's night-flight to New York yesterday to visit Al Sharpton and speak at a 20th anniversary celebration event of his National Action Network at the Sheraton ballroom. It was pretty significant that Obama broke away from deadline-driven budget talks in Washington (which ultimately failed last night) to speak to the crowd, which was mostly black and which included Bill Cosby, Magic Johnson, Stevie Wonder, David Dinkins, Spike Lee and Martin Luther King III. But it's possible Sharpton's group would not have convened such a heavy-hitting group again too soon, so it was something of a special occasion. And David Axelrod told reporters that low turnout among African-American voters in the midterm election had made Obama's reelection campaign more serious about reaching out to those voters, a population among whom Obama's popularity is measured by current polls at around 84 percent.
At the event, Obama told a few jokes about how thin Sharpton's gotten and name-checked Magic Johnson and Spike Lee in the course of a speech that was largely meant to be carried at the top of national news stories (including the Times, which headlined its version of the story "Obama Takes Aim at Inequality in Education," with the first mentions of Al Sharpton and the National Action Network in the fourth paragraph).
OK! "NEW BEST BUDS?" reads the main hed on the cover of the News, in white with a deep drop shadow. "Bam & Al schmooze, then Prez zips back to D.C. for budget war." Obama's prominence is due to the way the photo is cropped—with Obama and Sharpton in the right half of the picture so that that big type has someplace to go without covering the pictures of the stars. Obama, who is about a head taller than Sharpton, is also about a half-a-head "bumped" out above the frame of the crop, so that the silhouette of him is basically in the flag of the paper, over the "N" and "E" in DAILY NEWS. Sharpton looks smiley and uncharacteristically doe-eyed here. Inside the treatment is fairly standard; what justifies the question-mark headline is essentially the local story:
Sharpton, who has not always seen eye-to-eye with Obama, made it clear that he was in the President's corner for 2012.
"When I first met Sen. Obama, I didn't know what to make of him and he didn't know what to make of me," Sharpton said.
"We don't have to agree with everything the President does, and we don't," Sharpton added. "But we're not confused. This man has led. This man, this President, has served us."
A little vague, no? The cover leads you to expect a narrative of Obama and Sharpton coming closer after disagreements—so what were the disagreements?
The New York Post: It's the same photo as the News, but it's cropped to center on the two, which means the Post has a little less space to blow up the hed. But who needs it when you've got Sharpton and Obama on the wood? "MY PAL AL" reads the text. "O hails rev. at NY anniversary gala."
Pretty straightforward! Though the Post editorializes a bit on the reasons Obama's visit to Sharpton were of interest:
It also shows Obama is willing to overlook the reverend's controversial past, including Sharpton's role in the 1987 Tawana Brawley debacle in which he supported a teen who falsely accused six men, including cops, of raping her.
But who said there was reluctance on the part of the Obama campaign to deal with Sharpton on account of the events of 1987? Well, the Post!
Some guests couldn't help but notice how Sharpton's image has evolved from tracksuit-wearing rabble-rouser to DC Beltway insider.
"Sharpton started in the outhouse. Now the White House comes to him," quipped one person in attendance, who marveled at how Sharpton and Obama yesterday were "joined at the hip."
It's funny: the Post argues for the News headline!
Observations: Same story, same photo, so we're left to decide this on the strength of the display copy. It's a little sad because both papers have had better days, recently, in that department. "NEW BEST BUDS?" wastes little time on the names, since the pictures are right there; but why the question mark? Can't the News just tell me what happened at the Sheraton last night? "MY PAL AL" is a little small-looking on the front of the Post. But there's little reason to understand why this event was significant—besides that it warrants a picture of Barack Obama on the wood. It's tough but it comes down to one thing: Question-mark headlines don't work on tabloids unless there's really a question to be asked. Here, there isn't, at least not from the account we get from the News.
Winner: The New York Post.