9:43 am Jun. 21, 20112
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: Taste is not always the hallmark of the tabloid newspaper. But as with honor among thieves, there is a line; you may not be able to draw it, but you know when you've crossed it.
The long-running television show "Cops" crosses it not so much in its way of looking at its subjects—drunks in dirty underwear jumping over picket fences to avoid a disorderly-conduct collar, sad meth-heads being corralled off benches in public parks and so on. It's in the fact that these stories are selected to be told in the first place that the question of taste comes in. "T.P.," my boss and I used to say when considering whether putting something on the cover was just too gross. It meant "taste problem," but also the other, coarser thing: that if you made a newspaper with a story like that on the cover, its best use was not for reading.
Today, the News selects for its cover story the information that extra-extra-large neon-green T-shirts are being issued to visitors to Rikers Island who show up dressed too provocatively. There is an anti-smuggling element here, of course: the long, long shirts mean that to access anything hidden in your underclothing you'd have to undergo a fairly conspicuous operation. But the News emphasizes another reason: Sex-starved prisoners were making whoopee with their visitors, sometimes in front of children, in the visiting room.
A dek in red text with a white outline at the top of the big box starts us off: "RIKERS: If you dress like a slut, you must wear our …" The big black all-caps continue: "JAIL HOUSE SMOCK."
In an annoying trompe-l'oeil, a plastic hanger appears to be hanging off the crook in the W in the flag ("DAILY NEWS"); it has a drop shadow, which gives the somewhat vertigo-inducing idea that the flag text is floating above the page at a distance of what looks like about 12 inches. Draped over the plastic hanger is one of these enormous neon-green shirts.
Of course, ladies who visit their significant others at Rikers are sluts, while Cameron Diaz, pictured in a photo-box along the left margin in a form-fitting dress that barely covers her undercarriage, with the material of the upper half transparent enough to reveal a black bra beneath, in town to promote her movie Bad Teacher, is branded (with white text over a red snipe across her middle) a "CLASS ACT."
Lately, the News has been selling a lot of stories in small strips all over the page. I don't always get to them because I don't think they are serious game-changing story sales. But it's worth mentioning in general because, on a day like today, with two completely useless stories on the cover, the blue strip across the bottom might make someone think the paper was actually not having a T.P. day. It advertises a two-page spread about city contractors CityTime, who are under three new indictments as of yesterday. Celeste Katz writes: "The new charges bring to 11 the number of contractors and consultants charged in a long-running scheme to siphon off $94 million in kickbacks" in the consulting contract, the cost of which ballooned from $70 million at the start to 10 times that.
The indictments are not a surprise particularly, but the News has reason to trumpet them, since it was their columnist Juan Gonzalez who raised questions about the deal last year, which led to the scrutiny that ultimately undid the plot. The News probably knows better than to lead the paper with the story; it's a bit of a tough sale, even if it's important. So today, the strip gives the front some civic heft, even if it also distracts. Today, I welcome the distraction.
And up top above the flag, one skybox that looks like a promo for a Who reunion concert in Las Vegas advertises a getaway prize to England and another screams, against a pinstriped background, that the Yankees beat the Reds.
The New York Post: Meanwhile, the horrible shooting deaths of four Long Islanders in a small mom-and-pop pharmacy in Medford, characterized in the Day 1 reporting as a "robbery gone bad," turns out to be more horrific even than we thought. Because the robbery did not go bad.
Surveillance footage released yesterday shows the murderer walked into the store, pulled his gun, and received nothing but cooperation initially from the two staffers—pharmacist Raymond Ferguson and one of his clerks, 17-year-old Bellport High School senior Jennifer Mejia. He shot both at close range without hesitation. Two customers who came into the store were shot on the spot as well, before the shooter filled his backpack with prescription oxycodone and left the store.
Because the suspect is still on the loose, the prospect of an oxycontin-addled, gun-toting burnout with no qualms about shooting anyone in his path has pretty much underlined the peculiarly horrifying effects of that particular addiction.
"ASSASSIN" reads the headline, in knockout-white type on a black field. A silhouette of the shooter, taken from the footage, blown up, and helped out a little bit to show features like a mustache and beard, sunglasses, a baseball cap and a hoodie (but looking like something between a terrible photograph and a courtroom sketch) is a little awkward, but the closest thing we have to an identifying photograph of the killer.
"Chilling anatomy of a drugstore massacre," reads the dek, which sits below a four-panel screencap, each frame numbered, showing him entering the store, pulling his gun, and leaving the store. Naturally, while the surveillance footage contains the actual video of the graphic killings, they are not reproduced here.
Observations: What boggles my mind somewhat is that this story, which is right in the News' target market, is a big deal inside today's editions of the News, with a similar big treatment, and a Michael Daly column about the blight of oxycontin addiction and the antisocialness of it (combined with the usual preachifying about personal responsibility). It's obviously a hugely compelling story; in fact, it seems almost strange to me that the Post should have given it the full-page treatment while the News does not touch it at all.
Meanwhile, the News front gives us a piece of depressing and unimportant news that is supposed to be—what, funny? I'm not laughing.
Winner: The New York Post.