Transit union boss John Samuelsen proposes something and Beyonce looks different, on the inside

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Today's tabloids, Jan. 17, 2012. ()
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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: The biggest type ever to appear on the News, possibly, appeared today: The giant numeral 1, in knockout-white on a black field in the lower right-hand corner of the page. It's followed by a percent sign, then the symbol for the G train. A dek says "Secret wage offer in MTA contract talks," which almost gives us information: Someone made an offer having to do with wages in the negotiations between (and here we rely on a small degree of knowledge on the part of the reader) the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and the Transit Workers' Union.

Backtracking, it seems that the offer must have been 1 percent; but it's not clear what kind of offer it is. After all, they are negotiating, and it seems possible, without knowing more, that the T.W.U. is offering to lower some previous wage deal from a higher percentage-point increase down to 1.

Also, now that we know why all the letters are up there (though it took more work than most newsstand browsers are willing to undertake, don't you think?), what's the G for? Just a symbol to do with trains? I read this headline as "1% G." 

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The cover is actually a pretty awful disservice to transportation reporter Pete Donohue, whose exclusive story inside the paper on the M.T.A. negotiations is good, and perfectly clear. 

Apparently I wasn't alone in my vexation: The archive version of the cover is the Sports Final edition, the last edition of the paper to close, but a copy of the paper purchased in Williamsburg around 9 a.m. had the white-on-blue M.T.A. symbol where the G is in the archive edition. Since they're the same edition, I'm pretty sure it means the paper called the plant and stopped the presses, and had them "replate" Page One. (That's when you give the printer a new plate to print the rest of the pages from.)

But it was a little too little too late. Perhaps the editors at first might have thought that some confusion in the hed and dek could be alleviated by leading the story off the front. It's billed as an "EXCLUSIVE," whatever it is. "TRANSIT UNION BOSS John Samuelsen made a stunning pay raise proposal in closed-door negotiations, but the MTA wants no hikes without labor savings, sources told the Daily News," it begins. So, why is it stunning? Because the News says so! The problem is I don't think most people can really say what is or isn't stunning about a 1 percent raise. Let's look at the second graf: "The Transport Workers chief is locked in a high-stakes battle to break a pattern that denied raises to other public workers for three years." I'm still just kind of lost.

But hey, here's Beyoncé in a runway model stomp in a glittery gold maillot-type outfit. Her skin is shiny, the color of caramel, as is her hair; her eyebrows are dark and her eyes moody. "BEYONCÉ AS YOU'VE NEVER SEEN HER" reads the text. The story is actually about a particular photo shoot—not the one on the cover—just released in conjunction with her forthcoming album. In that photo she's wearing a black macramé thingy, very revealing, and appears to be wearing garters. Her hair is bleached blond, as are her eyebrows; her skin looks, says the news, "nearly alabaster."

This created an uproar, just as it did when Beyoncé was accused of letting a L'Oréal ad depict her as lighter-skinned and blonder than she is. (L'Oréal has disputed that they altered the image to lighten Beyoncé's skin, but really just adjusting the lighting and contrast are enough to lighten dark skin in a photo, as any photo editor knows, so it's really a question of motive and not of the actual action. But we digress.)

The main question is: Why does the News not put some or all of the actually controversial image on its cover? It is the news, after all. And why make no mention of the actual news story on the cover?

Thank god for tiny Mike Lupica, who appears to be sitting like the good angel on the shoulder of Giants coach Tom Coughlin, against a blue background. "HOW DO YOU LIKE TOM NOW?" a headline asks.

New York Post: I know of two "Avengers" franchises, one involving comic superheroes and another involving Diana Rigg. To my knowledge, neither of them uses a logo that looks like what's on the cover of the Post today. (Type nerds: Know what is it?)

Anyway in this silly script type the words "THE AVENGERS" are rendered, and there is a picture of Osi Umenyiora, his face screwed up into a battle cry and his finger pointing just off to the reader's right. Well, when the News did this yesterday ("SUPERMANN") at least they got the type style right. "Paying back Niners next on Giants' Supe list" reads the dek. Their Supe list, you will remember, is the list of games they have to win to get to the Super Bowl.

Perhaps more surprising is the fact that the Post political staff stumbled on "EXCLUSIVE" news that governor Andrew Cuomo plans to give the teachers' unions 30 days to sign off on a deal that would establish teacher performance evaluations, or else he'll just amend his budget to include the deal and move forward with the legislature anyway. "DEAL—OR ELSE" reads the big black text. There's a postage-stamp-sized picture of the governor's face, looking a little tough. "Gov's ultimatum on teacher ratings" reads a dek at the bottom of the page.

It's clear the paper was sitting on this for some time yesterday: They managed not only an editorial on the subject ("The very best of luck to you, Governor) but also an assignment for Robert Ward, the SUNY political science guy, to explain how broad the governor's leverage in these negotiations is given his power to drive through budget proposals on his own. Good to see access to "a source close to the administration" continues unmolested even after Rupert Murdoch pulled out his iPad during mayor Michael Bloomberg's State of the City address and tweeted, "Bloomberg's bold teacher proposals today terrific. How will chicken Cuomo respond?"

Speaking of tweets, that's all there really was in the much-covered Golden Globes-night dust-up between Madonna and Elton John (well, really, John's husband). But hey, Umenyiora and angry Cuomo are the stars of the page so far; a little Madge lightens the mood a bit.

Observations: There's a very real demand at the moment for football coverage, and lots of it. (I won't try to explain how psyched we've been to have Greg Hanlon around to write about the Giants and their remarkable playoff run. Just read his stuff, if you haven't already.) 

Still, there are only so many curtain-raiser pieces that can be written and fronted before this next game. The observation that the Giants are now up against the San Francisco '49ers, to whom they most recently lost, 27-20, is as old as that last game, or at least as old as Sunday, when it was clear the Giants were up against San Francisco again. The question about Tom Coughlin's coaching, which was under attack earlier in the season, is at least forward-looking. Really, neither story is much to look at, but we will have to resign ourselves to Giants stories every day this week unless there is an avalanche or Lady Gaga is photographed coming out of Michael Bloomberg's townhouse in the wee hours.

We can also fairly match up Madonna and Beyoncé, both old news; the Madge news is slightly older, even, dating to Sunday night rather than yesterday. But the point is there is no story attached to the Beyoncé picture on the front of the News. I think I've said all I can say about the uselessness of the News' sale of its exclusive; even if it were played in a way that somehow made sense, it's smaller news than Cuomo versus the teachers unions.

Winner: New York Post.