Reveling in the Yankees‘ win and Joseph Brooks’ suicide

Today's tabloids, May 23, 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?

Daily News: There was little chance that the suicide yesterday of the 73-year-old Oscar-winning composer of the song "You Light Up My Life," Joseph Brooks, would not lead the tabloids this morning. Not just because he's a famous person who killed himself, but because it happens he was at home on $1.5 million bail and awaiting trial on 82 counts of sex crimes; and because his longtime home, an apartment on East 63rd Street that was also the site of the suicide, was about to be taken from him in a dispute with Morgan Stanley banker Frederick Whittemore; and because his estranged son, Nicholas, is himself awaiting trial on charges he strangled his girlfriend Sylvie Cochay and left her body in the hot tub in a room they'd taken together at Soho House.

Looked at that way, the News seems to show some restraint in their presentation of the story: A haggard-looking Brooks, reminiscent somehow of an effete Harry Dean Stanton, is looking blankly at the reader from what looks like it must be a photoshopped yellow background. "SONG'S OVER," reads the main hed in heavy black type. "'Light Up My Life' composer & accused rapist kills self."

While the Brooks story takes up most of the page, there are two boxes along the left margin. One refers readers to coverage of the Yankees' rout of the Mets in the rubber game of the Subway Series. Another refers to a story in which the News touts its investigative reporting into illegal apartment divisions like the one that is being blamed for the deaths of three members of a Bronx family in April who could not escape their illegally-divided apartment; apparently a rundown of all the addresses investigated by the News shows that all were visited by inspectors, and many flagged as illegal.

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The New York Post: Restraint was not so much the watchword on the cover of the Post today. "END OF HIS GROPE" reads the knockout-white text over a black field in a box at the bottom of the page. "Pervy 'Oscar' composer kills self." The piece is full of cheap-shots at the dead composer: his Oscar-winning song was "saccharine" and the beautiful women that visited his apartment until a few months ago must have been prostitutes because he's so unattractive, and so forth. I wonder if the paper fears we will sympathize with Brooks for the fact that he committed suicide? At any rate it seems like sticking to the facts might have created just as unsavory a portrait of the man, if that was their objective.

But the visual interest of the page is centered on the top half, where an action shot of Yankees' Curtis Granderson at bat illustrates the paper's coverage of the Subway Series. "Yanks derail Mets" is the hed; in case you didn't already get it, the first letter of Yanks and the first of Mets are fashioned into imaginary M.T.A. subway-line symbols, the "Y" over a pinstriped circle and the "M" over a cobalt blue one with an orange border.

Observations: I don't doubt that the News is right about the relative weights of today's stories. There's a back page for a big Subway Series sale, and you just have to point front-page readers to it who might not normally go there. How much space on the cover should that take? Splitting the page roughly in half between the Joseph Brooks story and the Subway Series robs the Post of a firm point of view this morning. That said: As much as I hate the display copy the Post chose for the Brooks suicide, it will move papers.

Winner: The New York Post.