10:00 am Oct. 17, 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: Throughout the weekend the tabloid covers (including the Post) were wall-to-wall Occupy Wall Street. Not so this morning! Things were quiet last night at Zuccotti Park, and it seemed like yesterday there wasn't much in the way of field trips for the protesters after Saturday's clash with police in Times Square.
So today the Post gets a breather. One reason it's funny is that there is still lots of Occupy Wall Street coverage inside, including details of a plan to "occupy" the plaza at Lincoln Center, and a profile of a few people the Post thinks are the de facto "leaders" of the by-design leaderless group.
Still, the Post's favorite international punching bag, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, has news today! Over the weekend the French weekly newspaper Journal du Dimanche published a story saying that an investigation into a prostitution ring that allegedly made use of underage prostitutes showed that Strauss-Kahn was a client.
It's important here to remember that prostitution is not against the law in France, though there are strong anti-trafficking laws and a business that employs women who are not at the legal age of consent is criminally liable.
What makes this a disaster for Strauss-Kahn is not the legal angle; it's the reported fact that the French police bigwig arranged trysts with prostitutes for him, and that he was in line to be the former International Monetary Fund chief's main bodyguard if Strauss-Kahn had been elected president (a strong possibility, it had seemed in the days before he was accused of sexually assaulting a hotel maid in Midtown).
It's really something that the headline "DSK ORGY SPREE" is not repetitive; neither word is used metaphorically. A spree of orgies! "'Teen-hooker' pimp ran his sex romps" reads the dek. The scare quotes around "teen-hooker" relate the fact that these are all still just allegations; what you have to dig deeper in the story to discover is that the police have at the moment no reason to believe that Strauss-Kahn ever availed himself of the services of an underage prostitute or broke the law.
While I normally hate retread stories like this, a French newspaper is a legitimate place to strip-mine for the tabloids given the unavailability of the story to English-language readers except in unfamiliar international websites and magazines they probably don't ever see.
What's really sad about today's Post cover is the photo-dirven treatment of the top half of the page. A dramatic Bruckheimeresque crash on a race track in Las Vegas. It's all flames and flying wreckage. What's too grotesque to contemplate is what is happening to the unseen driver. He was Dan Wheldon, the well-liked, 33-year-old, British-born two-time winner of the Indianapolis 500. "Indy champ killed" reads the knockout-white, black-outlined text over the photo.
Daily News: The story also gets a little red skybox above the flag on the News front today ("FIERY CRASH KILLS INDY 500 CHAMP"), but the main story space here has nothing in common with the Post. The main news hed, set in knockout-white, black-outlined text, reads "Statue of Liberty park police say visitors to island are … ARMED TO THE TEETH." The Statue of Liberty is silhouetted here but a photoillustration has replaced the torch in her right hand with an enormous switchblade. (Enormous, that is, in terms of scale; it's a switch that, opened, is nearly the length of Liberty's entire arm. Haven't seen one of those around, have you?)
For the full effect:
The federal agency confiscated a wide-ranging array of weapons in the first nine months of 2011, a testament to its rigorous airport-style screening center in Battery Park City.
An inventory showed officers recovered 28 illegal weapons—everything from brass knuckles to collapsible batons to blackjacks.
They also seized nearly 5,300 knives; more than 5,000 other "miscellaneous weapons," including screwdrivers and other tools, and nearly 7,000 cans of pepper spray.
Last month alone, visitors surrendered seven dangerous weapons, 61 cans of pepper spray and Mace, and 588 knives—an average of about 20 blades a day, according to Park Police statistics.
In other news: Behold Ahmad Bradshaw, who "ran for 104 yards and a career-best three touchdowns—each on 1-yard runs" in last night's game against the Buffalo Bills. (Read Capital contributor Greg Hanlon's excellent piece about Bradshaw and his playing style, here.) A 30-yard run in the fourth quarter set up the final victory for the Giants.
A fascinating thing to me that I can't fully grasp is how the cover star is chosen for the front page and the back page to illustrate either victory or defeat. In a blazing defeat, the player responsible for the biggest setback is often the guy on the front and back. But when it's a victory and the real source of the victory is, at least theoretically, in dispute? Today's News Sports section is divided. Was it Eli Manning's throwing that gave them the win? Or Bradshaw's running?
The reason it matters is that Bradshaw has not always been gracious in the press toward his teammates. Last week Fox cameras caught him calling out the line in the Giants' loss to the Seattle Seahawks. But yesterday he was all praise: ""It was a successful day for us running the ball up front," Bradshaw said.
"I'm very proud of our offensive line," Bradshaw told reporters. "And if Eli (Manning) wasn't throwing the ball like he was, then a lot of runs wouldn't open up like they did. We worked hard on the red zone. The front did a great job for me to push it in on the goal line."
Harmony reigns again! Back to actual football.
The Bradshaw picture is incredible, like some kind of Giant from Greek mythology on top of Olympus celebrating a victory in the long war with the Olympians, before Heracles got in on the action. More prosaic is the text: "Giants wing Buffalo."
Observations: It's a pretty nice looking News cover, isn't it? A lot of drama to extract from a factoid story about weapons confiscations at a tourist attraction and a local football team victory. But the Post has a car in flames and the words "ORGY SPREE" on the cover. I think it's a close one, but today, obvious beats crafty.
Winner: The New York Post.