Can we be serious about Anthony Weiner? Probably not.

Today's tabloids, June 17, 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: I've brought this up before: Every once in a while, a story is of Serious Importance to The New York Post. So much so that outrage, punning, ribald humor and all the rest of it must be set aside. There is a serious journalism moment to be had.

Of course, usually this happens when it's time to REMEMBER OUR FALLEN HEROES or when planes fly into buildings in coordinated attacks masterminded by international terrorist organizations, and not when a congressman from Queens, who's been the topic of dirty jokes for some three weeks, finally decides to resign. So a couple of days after the Post has asked us with a pun to contemplate our congressman being manually serviced by our president, it's suddenly time to bust out the widow's weeds and get to the serious business of moving on from this civic calamity. "WEINER'S RISE AND FALL," I take it, is not straining for an erection joke. (At some point, everything is a wiener joke, but this seems plausibly incidental.) It's just what they imagine is the right headline when it's time to play New York Times for a day.

OK, not quite: The dek reads "Sexting 'member' quits Congress." But given what they've done so far, that's practically just the straight news.

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Daily News: The News is a more even-keeled proposition at most times; neither as zany or dirty or nasty or angry or giggly as the Post even when it has the opportunity. It's one of the reasons it sometimes feels like the News front has, in general, less of a personality than the Post's. So today, a mild joke (here, Weiner's last name is analogized to a Frankfurter without taking the next step down the metaphor trail) that seems tame compared to some of the previous Post covers looks distinctly unserious next to its competitor on the news stand. "STICK A FORK IN WEINER," it reads. There's a dek here, too: "It was Huma who finally made him quit Congress," it reads.

Observations: Here's the problem: people who aren't quite political do not find the whole Weiner thing to be of much political consequence, I think.

They're wrong, and it's probably the job of a good newspaper to meet the audience where they are and show them that because of a sexting scandal, they have lost a popular congressman and a strong 2013 mayoral contender. Of course it's significant. Not to mention the redistricting process about to be underway, and what Weiner's exit in the middle of his term might mean for that.

But it's too late, isn't it, to conduct the civics lesson, when mostly what the tabloids have done so far is revel in the tawdriness of the affair and take pleasure in how the mighty have fallen. You can't take seriously photos of Weiner in a bra and pantyhose at a frat party his sophomore year at SUNY Plattsburgh, and then, when he resigns, suddenly go all Founding Fathers on him. I don't think it's what readers want from the Post today.

What's more: There is information on the cover of the News. The Post headline could have appeared pretty much any time in the last week. Clearly he was in tatters and had fallen, even if he'd kept his seat. I'd have given it to the Post for "PETER-TWEETER WEINER QUITS," or similar, today. They do it better; I just think they didn't want to do it at all today.

Winner: Daily News.