9:05 am Oct. 14, 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?
Daily News: For a second day, the "cleanup" at Zuccotti Park that was scheduled to begin this morning at 7 a.m. makes the cover of the News. As we said yesterday, the question was never really about whether or not protesters would be "allowed" to return to a public park but whether the cleanup was a way of putting the genie back in the bottle and enforcing park rules that had been overlooked for the past four weeks. The News goes with a great big crowd picture of the protest with the word "SHOWDOWN" in knockout-white type across the top. The dek is where the paper's actual decision about the meaning of this news is is. "Park protesters vow to resist ouster by cops today." In other words the assessment of the News this morning is that the planned cleanup would effectively enough clear the protest from the park that the right shorthand is "ouster," despite the fact that the NYPD and Brookfield and the mayor all had been saying that the protesters could return when the park was deemed safe and clean.
The New York Post: You may remember that our most charitable explanation for the Post leaving news of the mayor's announcement to protesters Wednesday evening that they'd have to leave the park was that they thought it was not really an eviction and therefore not particularly newsworthy. (Our less charitable explanation was that they just kind of hate the protests.)
Today constitutes a pretty significant reversal, then. It was apparently too much to include pictures of protesters, so it's a text-driven treatment, but then that's also the treatment that tells the reader the story is really news. "WALL ST. FACE OFF" reads the big black text in a box along the right side of the page. "Park clash looms over cleanup."
The turning point is in the lede text offered on the front page: Set off by an em-dash (that means dramatic pause!) is the observation that the protesters "won't be allowed back with their camping gear." Since the protest is by definition not an everyday protest in a single location but a 24-hour "occupation," the news that camping gear and tarps and the like, which are in violation of park rules for use, dealt a significant blow to the protesters' modus operandi.
Usually famous for its focus compared to the News, the Post nevertheless couldn't give the story the full page. And so we have a giant still from the remake of Footloose, in movie theaters today. The headline? "The return of Footloose."
Observations: Of course after all that there may not be a showdown: It's still developing (and the News website is therefore liveblogging the day). But for now, Brookfield Properties, the private owner of the park, has withdrawn its request to the city to aid in clearing it this morning. There's nothing here to suggest that the papers bungled it except insofar as they've got a platform that won't allow them to have another crack at the story until Saturday morning's edition. Both websites are updated. But as far as that's concerned, they're on an even playing field at newsstands.
It's not a hard one: The Post's coverage of the demonstration itself (as opposed to the City Hall angle) has been mocking and unserious. So as it is, they have ground to make up proving to readers that they are seriously on top of things. Add to that the fact that a picture from Footloose matches text from a protest, and you have a front page altogether lacking in punch, big black letters and pretty actors notwithstanding.
Winner: Daily News.