10:02 am Dec. 1, 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: On page 32 of today's Daily News, you will find a photo of Katherine Heigl in tight jeans, big wedgy heels and a tight T-shirt with a cartoon picture of a dog and the words "I HATE BALLS.COM" printed below; a dog, one that looks like some kind of boxer-terrier, is looking up at her wearing a bib with a matching logo. Here is the entire text of the caption beneath: "Katherine Heigl is doggone fired up in her edgy campaign for IHateBalls.com, which backs spaying and neutering of pets. 'Hate balls, fix pets, save lives. It's just that simple,' says Heigl."
If the picture inside does not quite seem racy, consider the tease for that caption on the front page of the paper, in which Heigl is standing, hip cocked, in nothing but a pair of stiletto heels and a pair of briefs; she's cuddling a puppy up against her bare breasts, and the same logo appears right over her crotch on those briefs. "IT'S PUPPY LOVE," reads the headline.
At Jane Addams High School in the Bronx (an "F-rated" school in Bloomberg-adminsitration terms), principal Sharron Smalls had instituted a program in which students got credit for taking courses in areas like geography, health, chemistry, economics and government when in fact they were taking courses in cosmetology, hotel management and the proper protocol for court appearances. A pullout box showing what courses students took describes the "Tourism Class" as one "Where they learned to hotel management," the "Hospitality Management" class as one "Where they learned to how to balance books at a travel agency." Apparently for the copy desk at the News, "English class" was to where to they learned to ... never mind.
Anyway: The school issued a "dual credits" memo telling teachers how to offer credit for things like chemistry to students who took cosmetology classes, but after several teachers refused to participate in the program, it came to light. I can't completely understand why this constitutes "cheating," because there's nothing here about test scores, or how credits for graduation work. It seems that some students were cheated out of credits they needed in certain areas, like math (which, why not just have "Counting Class"?) Certainly, teachers and some students are mad just because it seems like they're unsatisfied with the education they're getting.
So to the front: "NEW YORK LIE SCHOOL" reads the big, knockout-white text on a black field, in which is also set a small picture of the high school's front door. "Massive class-credit fraud scheme uncovered at Bx. high." I have two problems here: Is it really a "fraud scheme"? And was it really "uncovered"? (It was a staff-wide memo, and after all, weren't the students aware they were getting credit for chemistry when they took cosmetology?)
New York Post: I'm getting sick of saying it so I will keep it brief. There is actually lots of good, or at least funny, stuff in the installment of Page Six Magazine inserted into today's editions of The New York Post. There's a cover story with a big, expensive-looking photo shoot of "The Other Lohan," Aliana, and a long story about what has become of George Clooney's many ex-girlfriends, and so on. But as always, instead of directly selling the stories in the magazine to get people to read it, they sell the fact that the magazine is there. Almost half the page is taken up with a great blue box, with a picture of the front of the magazine just big enough for readers to make out the headlines. "FREE INSIDE" reads the red, white-outlined text at the top of the page; then in enormous letters, "Page Six Magazine" with "76 glossy pages." I don't believe anyone has ever recommended a magazine to me by saying, "It has so many glossy pages, and it was free!" So why is the Post doing it?
Now let's get down to business. As is often the case when the Post makes a front-page story out of the lead business story, it's somewhat … simplified. "BULLS AND BEERS" reads the giant black text in the main news hole in a box in the lower-right quadrant of the page. "Celebrations as Dow soars 500."
Some readers might be confused to turn to page 41 and find a headline that reads "EUROPEAN RESCUE: Joy as Dow skyrockets 490 pts. after bailout," with a picture of Ben Bernanke photoshopped to be standing among a crowd of women in fishnets and lingerie with dollars stuffed in their garters. (Collectively, I think they might be Europe, somehow? But then why isn't Angela Merkl in here somewhere? I don't know.) "Ben the debaucher" reads the text at the top. Here's the caption: "It's party time now, as stocks soared yesterday on Fed chief Ben Bernanke's dollar liquidity push to aid in Europe's rescue. But the move risks further cheapening the buck—and raising the cost of living on ordinary Americans."
In the text of the article: The move "cheered Wall Street and markets around the world even though it does little to address Europe's longer-term debt woes." John Crudele's column on the same page is headlined, "Holy swap, there must be trouble brewing."
Why am I going this deep? Because we know that the Post hates to go back and forth with the Dow on its front page, will avoid doing so when it can, and that the paper is always looking for a better angle than "let's toast!" when the news is good. Let's get Bernanke on the front, bailing out a bunch of prostitutes or something, right guys?
Speaking of the debauched: Salman Rushdie has been breaking up with girls with Facebook messages, and then sometimes telling them afterward that they are "hott." That, at least, is what appears to have happened to Devorah Rose, editor of something called Social Life magazine.
Rushdie brushed off the Page Sixers but Rose gave a long quote through a spokesperson. Anyway the point of all this is that Salman Rushdie is this ladykiller type, so it's fun to see him … break up with a beautiful socialite and for her to complain to Page Six about how it happened? Whatever, it's what Page Six is supposed to do: Report on the private lives of public figures.
Observations: Which brings us to our first point: However sexy Katherine Heigl looks, her promotion of IHateBalls.com is not news, it's P.R. That she's willing to take off her shirt for it should not distract the News. Salman Rushdie's Facebook flirtations are news, at least in the realm of the gossip columns. It's about access: You don't have access to the private life of Salman Rushdie and he doesn't want you to have it, so Page Six gives it to you. Whereas IHateBalls.com doesn't have access to your pocketbook and wants to have it, so the Daily News is giving it to IHateBalls.com.
It's pretty simple: One paper is selling you to a place called IHateBalls.com, and another paper is selling Salman Rushdie's secrets to you. Which makes you feel better about yourself? (Wrong question, maybe.)
Since I expect neither paper expected to move off the stands on their main news stories, we can call it a draw. And maybe I hate the squandered opportunity of the feature-well of Page Six Magazine, but they've still got a picture of Aliana Lohan there that you know will get you more than a photo caption (in fact several "glossy pages"!) inside.
Winner: New York Post.