Getting jolly with Dominique Strauss-Kahn, and deadly earnest with Dan Doctoroff
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: Dominique Strauss-Kahn may have been upset by the tabloid coverage when it wasn't going his way, but on Tuesday night, as he entered the Franklin Street townhouse in Tribeca where he's staying with his wife, Anne Sinclair, he had no difficulty hamming it up for the cameras, doing a routine where he himself used his own key to enter the townhouse.
His expressions are priceless. There are thumbs up, waves to reporters, and even a little gag where it took him a minute to get the key in the lock. (Performance anxiety?) But it's the insuppressible joy in his wide, wide smile that makes the tabloids' favorite monster rapist so photogenic now. So photogenic that for today's paper—with only incremental news advances in the story—the Post could not resist plucking a photo from the series by James Devaney and plastering it over the front page.
In the picture the Post chose, D.S.K. is standing in the vestibule of the townhouse, facing the press as he's about to close the front door on them, his wife beaming beside him. He's holding up his key between his thumb and forefinger, his remaining fingers splayed out like he's a chef about to kiss a pinch of salt. His arched brows impressively high, he looks like he's taunting you in a game of tag.
Perhaps the awesomeness of the picture got away from the Post, though. The inside story has thin details about a meeting between District Attorney Cy Vance and D.S.K.'s lawyers, in which the lawyers predictably asked the D.A. to drop the charges; there was no conclusion. There were also incremental advancements in the zaniness of the accuser's defense team, which has filed suit against The New York Post and demanded that the Manhattan D.A.'s office recuse itself from the case.
So how to top a thin story like that with a big, bold hed that works with this excellent picture? The Post's effort is "KEY TO A DEAL" (despite the fact that no "deal" is in the works: the attorneys are asking that the case be dropped). The dek: "DSK lawyers tell DA: unlock the door" (despite the fact that house arrest, the conditions under which D.S.K. was staying in the townhouse, is already lifted, as the Frenchman is so merrily pointing out to reporters on Franklin Street with this whole key-dance).
About a fifth of the width of the page is set aside on the left to flag Yankees coverage, sold on the person of Derek Jeter, who is just three hits away now from 3,000. "Three to go! Jeter jolts double" reads the hed, which refers us generally to the multiple stories in the sports section.
Daily News: It's perhaps understandable that the News saw nothing cover-worthy in the D.S.K. case today. And then, also, there was a biggish piece of news, if unsurprising, coming elsewhere out of the D.A.'s office.
The prosecution of the John Galt Corp. and its asbestos abatement chief, Mitchel Alvo, on charges of manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide, has failed, with a judgment from Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Rena Uviller.
To refresh your memory, the Deutsche Bank building was under floor-by-floor, top-to-bottom environmental remediation and demolition at the hands of Galt, in a contract awarded by the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation; the building sustained damage after Sept. 11 when parts of the World Trade Center towers were blasted into its side. Deutsche Bank let the building sit, turning it into a massive environmental hazard that ultimately the LMDC had to take over. In the course of the demolition, a 42-foot section of a basement standpipe was removed, according to prosecutors to speed up the demolition process. So when a fire from a stray cigarette started in the building and firefighters Robert Beddia and Joseph Graffagnino Jr. responded to the blaze, it took an hour for them to find a source of water to quench the flames. They died of smoke inhalation.
Relatives of the victims have been saying for some time now that the contractors were scapegoats, and that authorities involved in the demolition project ordered the project completed under unsafe conditions. It does not appear that that has really been investigated thoroughly, as Michael Daly points out in an accompanying column in which the real villain appears to be former deputy mayor for economic development Dan Doctoroff:
"Speed was at the cost of safety, and even if nobody was pointing a finger at him, I would have expected Doctoroff to have felt in some way responsible for the ultimate obscenity; the deaths by criminal negligence of two firefighters across the street from where 343 members of the department already perished," Daly writes.
The strength of his argument is a memo sent early in the demolition project to Doctoroff and Avi Schick, then the head of the LMDC, saying that authorities overseeing the demolition had too small a budget to guarantee safety, and objections from the Department of Investigation that Galt was being given financial incentives to finish the work quickly.
The News goes for the simple one-word hed: "TRAVESTY" is set in knockout-white type the width of the page on a black background. Headshots of the two firefighters line up Brady-Bunch style on the right, with a large picture of the blaze that killed them on the left overset with type that reads "Two bravest dead—and everyone's off the hook." "Deutsche Bank outrage," reads some text along the bottom.
"JETER ONE HIT CLOSER TO 3,000" reads some yellow text in a thin red stripe across the bottom of the page; and of course up top, promotions and the like. Another free poster; free tickets to a Harry Potter premiere.
Observations: This D.S.K. picture is what you dream of in a case like this, but the Post needed to administer itself some crushed velvet and smelling salts; it might have helped them figure out how to sell this set of nondevelopments on the cover with that picture; or perhaps, if they'd thought about it some more, they might have regretfully cast the picture aside for the front and gone with something else. At any rate, what we ended up with, while delightful in its way, isn't a match for the straight-up workingman's Big News crusade story the News gives us today.
Winner: Daily News.