8:11 am Aug. 24, 2011
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: My Earthquake Story: I was walking up Fifth Avenue from a lunch in Union Square to my next meeting and made a quick stop for my companion to run an errand. While waiting outside the building for her, about 2 p.m., it did seem slightly more crowded on the street than usual. But as I stood there texting, I noticed something odd on the ground next to me.
It was a large praying mantis, I'd say maybe four inches long, slowly hopping toward me. Another woman standing there said "It's a good sign." When my companion came back out of the building she said, "Did you hear about the earthquake?"
That was it!
So I was not rattled, but apparently plenty of people were slightly taken aback. Mostly it was a diverting event on a very pretty day though, right?
It's hard to know how to play a natural phenomenon that is only a little bit remarkable and caused faint surprise and mostly was a minor novelty, with a screaming tabloid front page. We "SHOOK!" according to the Post, which conveys the message in large italic knockout-white text on the bottom of the front page. A crowded streetscape near Chambers Street shows office people mostly chatting and smiling. A bar across the center of the photo shows the line graph from the Maryland Geological Survey, the red jagged line getting frantic for a little bit in the middle at 1:51 p.m.
Daily News: We were also "RATTLED!" That's the News' take, conveyed in knockout-white text in a black field across the bottom of the page. There is no picture, actually! But the message is conveyed graphically by making the text look like it's been cracked to pieces along two fault-lines. The dek: "City shakes as Va. quake shocks Northeast."
With a two-page spread inside you'd think they might manage art from the front. But the problem with that is then we wouldn't have space to show the governor's not-first-lady girlfriend Sandra Lee grabbing her breasts. Yup! In a grainy screen-grab from a YouTube video posted yesterday (and since removed from the site), Sandra Lee appears to be immediately post-grab; the video contained outtakes from filming of her show "Semi-Homemade," and she quipped in these outtakes that she (by which I think she meant her body) was herself "semi-homemade." Har!
There were some curses, too. "Sandra Lee as you've never seen her!" reads the knockout-white text.
But the paper saves a sliver of space to warn you of the next likely minor natural event: "IRENE TAKES AIM AT EAST COAST," reads the text in the small red box. Again, no photos.
Observations: I don't mean to be crabby about the earthquake. What after all were the papers to do? It was something unusual, wasn't it! It just wasn't quite … dramatic, the way you expect an earthquake to be. I think actually the Post got the spirit of it: A lot of people standing outside gabbing when they'd otherwise be confined to their cubes.
But most importantly the Post commits to the earthquake story. The News, as is sometimes its wont, aims at too many targets to score a direct hit on any of them.
Winner: The New York Post.