10:25 am May. 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: Near the bottom of the Post's curtain-raiser on President Obama's visit to Ground Zero today is a quote from Bill Doyle, father of Cantor Fitzgerald employee Joseph Doyle, who was killed on Sept. 11. "I'm ecstatic that he got bin Laden," he told the Post. "It was a gutsy call. Obama said getting bin Laden was his number-one priority and he got it done. That's mission accomplished."
And he called today's event "bittersweet," which gave the paper its wood. Though the story does not really address the question lots of the country has been asking itself about whether July 4-style partying and flag-waving is an appropriate response to the successful kill mission, it suggests it with the cover copy.
"BITTER SWEET" reads the knockout-white text over a black field. There's a picture of the twin towers of the World Trade Center between two bullet points: "Prez to lay wreath at Ground Zero" and "Then we can celebrate bin Laden's death." I'm not sure I understand the moral logic (or is it really etiquette?) implied here. But it's obviously a story that sells itself.
Several Sept. 11 anniversaries have gone by of course, with the coming one marking the 10th. And somehow—though all the papers try to find things to write on those days—it has never seemed, to me at least, to reach the significance you might have expected. That all of this rallying around the victims' families and first responders, all this attention to the rebuilding effort, should result from bin Laden's death is an organic development. Will there be a bin Laden day that outstrips the importance of Sept. 11 itself, I wonder? Will the 10th anniversary be as big a deal as this seems to have become?
At any rate, I am inclined to sympathize with the tabloids' sense that this is Sept. 11 week. And in case it doesn't seem explicit enough, a red box at the top of the Post wood today reads, "CITY PAUSES TODAY FOR 9/11."
Daily News: The president is coming to Ground Zero to lay a wreath on the site of the Sept. 11 mayhem, and all you get is this lousy commemorative plaque?
I am having a hard time understanding the cover conceit of today's News. Riffing on those framed photos you can have made of a racer crossing the finish line, mounted under matting next to a blue medal, perhaps with a news clip beneath, and a little thin brassy plate at the bottom that says something like "1st Place, Roslyn High School Invitational, Sept. 11, 2001," the News picks up the story of the administration's decision not to release photos of the corpse of bin Laden that were taken presumably for the purpose of providing proof of his death. Because it concerns a photo—an analogy to a close race is posited here?
"NO PHOTO FINISH" reads the knockout-white text on black, with Obama's head-and-shoulder pic to the right of the text and Osama bin Laden's to the left. "Obama, on way to Ground Zero, won't release bin Laden death pix" reads the dek. That little brass plate advertises coverage on "PAGES 2-8."
Observations: Well, these are both incoherent, but the News cover conceit is so strange that it almost seems, in the somber context, inappropriate. The thing I can't get out of my head is the weird practice that sometimes happens on someone's birthday in a cubefarm office, where someone makes lots of copies of a life-size photo of the Birthday Girl's head and everyone wears them as masks. What does this mean? "Happy Birthday, we have all turned into you?" It's always meant good-naturedly, but it's just creepy. What is the joke here, or the meaning? Why a racing trophy? Is Obama in a race with the corpse of bin Laden?
At least the Post is feeding off the actual local news. A reminder: THE PRESIDENT IS VISITING GROUND ZERO TODAY. That is not a side note; that's the story.
Winner: The New York Post.