What Dominique Strauss-Kahn did, and who he is

what-dominique-strauss-kahn-did-and-who-he
Today's tabloids, May 16, 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: Really, the only question about the story of International Monetary Fund managing director and promising French presidential candidate Dominique Strauss-Kahn, arrested over the weekend on charges he sexually assaulted a maid in his midtown hotel, was whether it would take up the whole front page again today. (Yesterday's "SLEAZY MONEY" was the paper's first take, but it was a Sunday edition, which doesn't take them very far.)

It does!

Over a tight crop on an AFP photo of Strauss-Kahn and one of the officers who led him out of the Special Victims Unit in Harlem yesterday, knockout-white text reads "FRENCH WHINE." "Hey, I'm a VIP, sniffs 'sex rap' IMF boss," is the dek.

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Daily News: It's not an absolute lockup of the front of the News today, but for all intents and purposes it is. A couple of short skyboxes tout a lottery prize and the Yankees score against the Red Sox, and a strip ad sold across the bottom flogs a CBS morning health show. But the main photo, a different crop of the same exact shot we see on the Post, gets the headline "WALK OF SHAME" in knockout-white. "Hotel maid identifies IMF chief in police lineup." (Yesterday's hed was more adventurous: "LE PERV" was wrapped around a tight closeup of Strauss-Kahn's face in mid-chop-lick. Yuck.)

Observations: Of course the news yesterday is that Strauss-Kahn lawyered up (Ben Brafman!), that an initial bail agreement of $200,000 was revoked in favor of one more in the $2 million range, that the alleged victim of the attack ID'd him in a line-up, and that he agreed to submit to a DNA recovery procedure on his person.

It seems less important news-wise that all this had him sitting on a wooden bench in the Harlem offices of the Special Victims Unit until the late evening, when he was transferred to a hospital so forensics could scrape his fingernails and that sort of thing, or that a police insider told the Post anonymously that he was a baby about it, unless you consider the very reasons this story is so prominent in the first place. It's a mix of sex (yes, I am sorry to say, stories about sexual assault do count in the "sex sells" truth about media), "Oh how the mighty have fallen," "poor little rich boy/girl" and "France sucks," to count just four powerful tabloid themes that are a part of the tale.

Viewing the two covers in that light, it's hard, unless you are a regular tabloid reader who's also up on French politics and the current I.M.F. bailouts of Greece, Ireland and Portugal, to guess why this should be such big news. It's big news because this guy is really, really big. The Times, as of this writing, has given the top of its homepage to a package of stories, including an I.M.F. successor betting card by Landon Thomas Jr., a straight-up crime-desk write-up, and a rather long essay on the reaction in French political elites. For the tabs, just stomping your feet and declaring its interest to your readers isn't enough. You have to tell the story they are looking for. And for my money, whiney rich French pervert are the important details for the wood, not the police-procedural, however fascinating that is to me personally. So holding my nose a little bit, here's my vote.

Winner: The New York Post.