10:49 am Nov. 17, 20111
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: "As the city braced for a 'sizeable' crowd, observers on both sides said the scale of the protest would show whether the two-month-old movement could regain momentum after Tuesday's demoralizing defeat," write a gang of News reporters including Matthew Lysiak, who was one of the journalists arrested during the pre-dawn clearing of the Occupy Wall Street encampment at Zuccotti Park Tuesday.
It's not clear which "sides" they are referring to but the rest of the article quotes Deputy Mayor Howard Wolfson and some protesters, so it seems like it's the city versus the Occupiers. The rest of the article goes on to outline the protesters' plans for today, and the city's plans for keeping disruption to a minimum. "DO OR DIE FOR OCCUPY" reads the heavy black type on the front, with no picture. "OWS future at stake as it vows huge demo today; cops nab protester in threat to burn city." (That last bit is a reference to a small and sad story about a mentally ill man arrested for making "terroristic threats" that were captured in a viral YouTube video.)
It's probably worth noting that the News has been far superior to the Post in covering the protests, both online and in print, since they started two months ago. Its live-blogging and up-to-the-minute reporting online has been the fastest-response report I've seen, and they continue to follow the main narrative instead of constantly looking for unimportant narratives of their own that people who love to hate the protests appreciate but that aren't really news.
That said, the News' coverage has not always made for compelling front pages. And today's is nice and earnest in that it maps the stakes in today's events purely in terms of the future of the protest. But there'd be a wider audience for serious coverage of how disruptive the protests might be, and what streets and subway stations were being targeted. Then the stakes are just your commute, and your workday; quotidian, but broad.
Still, the paper has other ways to try to grab our attention this morning, including pictures of Kristen Stewart, heroine of the latest Twilight movie, and Mark Sanchez, who is under pressure to be a hero tonight in Denver.
"Sanchez must stand and deliver tonight" reads the knockout-white text on a Jets-green field. He's silhouetted in his helmet, a choice I find odd unless it's an action photo. I know the helmet says "football" very clearly, but an unobstructed face is always a bigger mover. Sunday's depressing loss to the Patriots, columnist Gary Myers writes, is down to Sanchez' disappointing performance. "Sanchez is a big reason why the Jets are one game behind the Patriots in the AFC East and down the tiebreaker with seven games remaining," he writes. "Rex Ryan has already conceded the division race to New England." I'm also unclear on the decision to use "stand and deliver" in the headline; it's not quite apt, and inside the paper there's a suggestion that there were better headlines in the paper's pocket, like "SNAP OUT OF IT!" Which works great for a few reasons.
Also confusing is how the red-carpet picture of Stewart is being promoted. Elizabeth Weitzman only gives the movie three out of five stars, so maybe the headline should have sold the story on the news element, that millions are expected to flood the box offices of local theaters at midnight tonight and all weekend? It's a friendly enough review but, without giving too much away, the two most important plot lines are deemed tedious. So, "★★★ FOR NEW 'TWILIGHT'" seems a little banal.
New York Post: While it may seem hard to justify, the Post gives Occupy Wall Street just one page, a hodgepodge of short articles, and no Page One real estate at all.
And really, it isn't that hard to justify, for them in particular: One of the contenders in the 2013 mayoral race just pretty much bit the dust yesterday; and what's more, it's a candidate the Post has loathed from the start. City Comptroller John Liu wasn't talking much yesterday after the feds picked up Xing Wu Pan, one of his fund-raisers, for attempted wire fraud and conspiracy to skirt campaign-finance laws to deliver $16,000 in donations to Liu from a single donor. The donor was, of course, an undercover agent.
There's always lots of room for a candidate whose fund-raisers manage to get around the law and get caught. After all fund-raisers are not employees of the campaign, and it's usually possible to create distance between yourself and the fund-raiser. What's more, the fund-raiser is usually happy to oblige. But in this case it appears the feds have managed to besmirch Liu himself in court papers outlining the charges.
Pan's method was to organize friends and acquaintances to make donations which he would then reimburse them for out of funds provided for him by the donor who wants to bust the legal limit. In this case, one of those "straw donor" checks bounced, and … Liu called Pan to get the money. How much does all this matter? One of his own operatives is anonymously quoted thusly: "No union is endorsing this guy."
It's a victory for the Post, which has sometimes stepped over the line in its vigorous prosecution of the comptroller, in my opinion. But today's their day to gloat. "BIGGEST LIU-SER" is the headline, in larger type than I have seen on the Post in many months. "Comptroller's campaign money man arrested" is the slightly misleading dek.
The Post goes a different way on tonight's Jets game. Matinee-idol Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow is presented as the Jets' Goliath in their "must-win" game in the "Mile-High City." The box is Broncos blue! Yellow text reads, "Jets' top task: Turn Tebow into Tiny Tim." A picture on the back page shows Jamaal Westerman and Bart Scott piling onto him in an earlier match-up. But the box on the front just has a smiling, angelic Tebow in a victorious double fist-clench.
Observations: As much bite as there is in this John Liu story, I actually don't think he's important to most New Yorkers. And these kinds of campaign-finance scandals don't usually grab the popular imagination. Liu's enemies will cheer the Post, as will much of the city's business community. But most of New York, today, cares about what's happening in lower Manhattan. I can wish the News had done better with photography, but there you have it. To me, the football skyboxes are a draw, and Kristen Stewart's sparkly gown, while it doesn't do anything good for the page, doesn't do anything particularly bad either.
Winner: Daily News.