A botched terror-bomb plot, a tasteless Tiger Woods joke, Tommy Shots

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Today's tabloids, May 13, 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: Yesterday's show-and-tell at City Hall about the sting operation that resulted in indictments on terrorism counts against Ahmed Ferhani and Mohammed Mamdouh, two twenty-something Queens residents, seems to have gotten them little on the front pages of the papers today. What's on the Post, aside from a roughly 15-word squib at the bottom of the front page of the Times that refers readers to page A23, is what they got out of the major local dailies.

"TEMPLE TARGET" reads the heavy black type on the bottom half of the Post wood this morning; "Shock plot to attack major NYC synagogue" is the dek. The sneering face of Ferhani, who was apparently indignant at his arrest and mouthed the word "INNOCENT" to reporters seated in the courtroom for his arraignment, gets a small postage-stamp treatment here; the "sting photo" released by the city yesterday, with an odd captioning overlay, is nowhere on the woods this morning.

Instead of the terror plot hatched by Fehani and Mamdouh with the help of undercover police, the visual focus of today's wood is Tiger Woods. Leaning over to his golf bag to mop his brow with terrycloth, the golfer looks defeated, as he indeed was yesterday when he withdrew from the Players Championship after a miserable performance over nine holes, complaining of injuries. His achilles tendon and knee injuries, now becoming chronic, raise a larger issue: "With every obstacle Woods encounters, the distance between his 14 major championships and Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 lengthens," the Post's Mark Cannizzaro writes from Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.

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Unless I am very much mistaken, the copy for the wood is pretty tasteless: "Tiger goes limp!" reads the main text, with unconcealed glee. It's quite literally what happened, but would this be the headline if the Post hadn't covered his philandering and divorce so closely? "Quits after 9 holes."

Daily News: Yesterday's City Hall news conference, complete with a display of arrest photos, comments from the mayor and police commissioner Ray Kelly and Manhattan D.A. Cyrus Vance, with no assist from the feds, gets the full brush-off from today's News front. Instead, the paper gave the entire wood to mobster Thomas "Tommy Shots" Gioeli, a former Colombo-family boss currently standing trial for a half-dozen murder counts. There isn't really a new event in the trial to report, except that yesterday documents in the case were unsealed after a motion by the News and the website Gangland News containing wiretap evidence the prosecutors hope to introduce at trial. The reason there's any question of their introduction is that they pertain to criminal activity that doesn't number in the current trial; prosecutors want to introduce it to establish a criminal pattern of behavior for Tommy Shots.

What was interesting in there? Apparently, Gioeli believes he is condemned to hell because of the part he played in the 1982 slaying of porn king Joseph Peraino, of Deep Throat fame, and his son. Chasing the two to the Brooklyn doorstep of Veronica Zuraw and firing at them, they inadvertently struck and killed the woman, a former nun.

"'I'M GOING TO HELL!'" reads the knockout-white type that covers the wood, and partly covers the obese, track-suited Gioeli. "Mob boss terrified after ex-nun gunned down."

Two skyboxes advertise Jimmy Breslin's Sunday column and another tribute to cartoonist Bill Gallo.

Observations: The indictment of two lone-wolf jihadists after a sting operation should seem like big news. The problem here is that the threat is learned about long after it is neutralized and that, in cases like this, it is neutralized long before there is an arrest. There were no weapons for these two that were not to be provided by undercovers; no plot without the aid of investigators.

Still, in the immediate aftermath of the death of Osama bin Laden, the News has deigned before to put more remote threats on its front. What's the reason "Tommy Shots" required the full page to sell to readers? Without the terror plot on its front the News feels small-townish. And, whatever they try to do, these mobsters are interchangeable to most readers. They could not have avoided putting this on the front after winning their motion in court, but this page needed more.

Winner: The New York Post.