Downtown scuffles overshadowed by the death of ‘icon’ Steve Jobs, but for that photo

Today's tabloids, Oct. 6, 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:  Just as surely as a staff photographer at the right place at the right time on Tuesday won yesterday's contest for the Post, the News' Julia Xanthos wins it today with what is sure to become an emblematic photo from the Wall Street protests. Here in the foreground is the ducking, squinting protester, with a spew of pepper-spray droplets visible issuing from a weapon in the clenched hand of a New York Police officer. The officer is himself an emblem, all Irish and his eyes reddened in the flash, small glasses and a jowly chin, his mouth set small and firm in his effort, looking daggers straight at his target. Behind them is a welter of protesters.

Things got rough when a demonstration that went off smoothly in the late afternoon turned into a scuffle after nightfall, with protesters attempting to breach police barricades protecting Wall Street itself and the New York Stock Exchange from the crowds.

Witnesses said about 200 people tried to push through barricades and police responded with pepper spray and penned them in with orange netting.

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Significant also was the entry of the unions, including the United Federation Teachers, United Auto Workers, United Healthcare Workers and Public Employees Union DC37.

"BRAWL STREET" is the knockout-white text, with a dek that reads "Largest protest march ends with arrests, pepper spray." But to me, alongside the unions, it's significant what appears in a red snipe over the upper-righthand corner of the photo: "BRESLIN: THE KIDS MUST BE HEARD."

Of course Jimmy Breslin is a bit of a lefty crank to begin with, but he becomes the first truly influential tabloid opinion-monger to support the protesters, the way I see it.

Less eventful is the pinstriped swath above the flag today advertising yet another Yankees commemorative poster. "YANKS SET TO TAME TIGERS" is the ostensive news-hook today, though these will roll out every day for the forseeable future, rain or shine on the fortunes of the Yanks.

Since early yesterday evening of course most of the news being passed around online concerned the death of Steve Jobs, who built what was for a moment and may yet remain America's most successful company ever, Apple. "APPLE GENIUS STEVE JOBS DEAD" reads pale-yellow text in all-caps across a blue stripe at the bottom of the page.

The New York Post: Whereas for the Post, presumably lacking a photo as significant as Xanthos' from the protests, the faraway but incredibly important news of Jobs' death is the priority. Jobs looks like a positive guru, his hands together fingertip-to-fingertip, his head shaved short and his face gaunt, though not with monkish fasting but the cancer that ultimately killed him yesterday at the age of 56. The little round frameless glasses only add to the Gandhiesque impression. "STEVE JOBS DEAD" reads the knockout-white text; "Apple icon changed the world." News Corp. chief Rupert Murdoch has never been secretive about his admiration for Jobs, and his $50 million bet on the iPad shows he was always willing to put his money where his mouth was.

As I've said before, I think Murdoch has better things to do than dictate Post front pages, but when news of Jobs' death reached the newsroom I doubt there was much contemplation about what to put on the wood.

The Jobs treatment leaves a thin strip along the left margin unclaimed, which the Post uses for teasers of its Yankees-Tigers preview stories and a Pulse story called "The secret lives of wives," set in a wedding font beneath two interlocking gold rings.

Observations: I already gave away the ending, so I'll just explain my rationale a bit here. I don't believe the death of Steve Jobs requires a full-page sale. Anyone who looks at the News today knows they're likely to get just as much inside the paper as they are at the Post.

It would have seemed to me that no story could compete with the story of Jobs' death when I went to look at the front pages this morning, including last night's significant developments at Occupy Wall Street. But Xanthos' photo is perhaps the one thing that could. The cover of the News is dictated 100 percent by Xanthos' photo, which encapsulates precisely what happened, and which gives a feeling of being there that all news photography aims for. It's a natural.

Winner: Daily News.