Dismembered body of Leiby Kletzky found by police, after press-time

Today's tabloids, July 13, 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: Let's get the little stuff out of the way first: Jeter's still swinging! It seems his encounter on the beach in Miami with 'Friday Night Lights' star Minka Kelly was yet another big hit, if not quite as big as his 3000th.

Of course, we've known the two are an item since at least February 2011. But we've had a lot of baseball on the covers lately. If there's a way of getting New York's dean of baseball on the cover out of his pinstripes, so much the better.

The important local baseball story today is actually about now-former Mets closer Francisco Rodriguez, traded to the Milwaukee Brewers to dump salary in aid of a Mets-franchise balance sheet which also must yield enough for a nine-figure deal to keep Jose Reyes, if the Mets aren't to fall apart completely.

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That's covered in a yellow starburst that reads "AND K-ROD IS PACKING!"

There's another free Yankees poster in the paper today, advertised in a skybox alongside a story about that 22-year-old bartender-actor who trashed the Ed Sullivan theater in a drunken rage making his apology to David Letterman. (This gets his headshot on the top of the front page of a tabloid. Was his one phone call to his agent?)

But the main news is sadly already old news: At press time a frantic search was underway for Leiby Kletzky, the eight- (or nine, depending on your source) year-old boy who went missing Monday afternoon on his way home from day camp. A grainy picture of the boy is blown up (couldn't they have gotten a better one from among the many Jewish civic organizations canvassing the neighborhood with photos?) and flanked by the words "GONE IN A FLASH." The dek reads: "B'klyn boy, 8, last seen on surveillance camera with man."

By the time the paper was on newsstands, the dismembered body of the boy had been found in a Dumpster in the South Slope, and the man shown in the surveillance video had been brought in for questioning by police.

The New York Post: What looks like that same photo is blown up on the cover of the Post but has been properly corrected so that it doesn't look nearly as grainy. It's set in a black field beneath knockout-white type that reads "VANISHED." "Frantic hunt for little boy lost in B'klyn" reads the dek. A box with lede text describes the parents' nightmare waiting for news of their son yesterday.

It's worth noting that as is often the case, details differ on the inside story between the Post and the News. We'll restrict ourselves to one detail that appears in the Post's online update to the story because it's relevant to the likelihood the police have the right man for the murder of the boy. According to the paper, the boy's severed feet were found in the house of the man police are questioning. Of course, the Post doesn't get that in print; like the News, they went to press before the boy was found.

Observations: It's naturally difficult to decide who won where, basically, print lost. It wasn't a poor bet though, so I don't penalize either paper for going big on coverage of a story that might well outrun the presses and the trucks; and if they were going big, it wouldn't make sense not to run the story on the front.

I'll make my apology up front: There are some stories that are so sad, it doesn't quite seem right to judge the papers' salability on them. But that's our job here, right?

Today, the News loses just because its regular practice of selling several stories, which sometimes gives the front page energy, has stolen the drama from the story of the missing boy. If it's not going to be big, it probably should be small. Instead the News has a lot of medium-sized stories, and they play at a medium pitch.

Winner: The New York Post.