9:41 am Feb. 9, 20126
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?
New York Post: The "news" on the front page of today's Post is, ostensibly, in the dek. "'Rape' beauty could not remember sex with Kelly," reads the knockout-white type across the bottom of today's full-page cover story. But of course, this is in fact old news.
From the very first reports about the woman who walked into a local precinct house to tell police she had been raped by "Good Day New York" anchor Greg Kelly (who is also the son of police commissioner Ray Kelly), we knew that she claimed the two had been boozing it up before retiring to her offices; that she claimed to have known she had sex; and that her rape claim was built precisely on the fact that she was too incapacitated to consent. Really, though, this was never the news that excited the Post enough to give the story the entire front page. It was the night before last that news broke that the district attorney's office, which was investigating her claims, decided it would not pursue any criminal charges against Kelly, but also that it did not believe the accuser had filed a "false report," in that she has never wavered from her story and believes herself to have been the victim of a crime.
The real news here is that the Post has decided to open fire on the woman, printing a giant photo of her face taken from a Facebook posting, naming her and giving details about her life, and slapping the headline "SHADY LADY" beneath her mug.
The woman, an aspiring model and actress, has several glamor shots posted to sites on the web that might have provided a picture the Post could use, but they chose one in which the accuser looks a bit like the girl from the poster for Enchanted April with a bad hangover.
The Post, unlike the News, doesn't spend a lot of time explaining its policies on naming the accusers in sex-crime cases. But if the editorial point of view in any way resembles the one expressed in Andrea Peyser's column today, where she essentially argues that the stakes should be higher for women who claim they have been the victim of a crime to avoid false accusations, then it's a wonder they ever bothered to keep the name secret at all.
Daily News: The News is sticking to its policy of not naming the accuser, but the story isn't on the front page today, anyway. (Why would it be? There was, as we saw, little news, except that Kelly will return to his anchor spot tomorrow morning.)
But, really, yet another day of commemorative pullout free inside celebrating the Giants' Super Bowl win? And, even if that were worth promoting on the front page, does it need three quarters of the page? A giant centerfold poster is also available today.
It leaves little but a strip on the bottom for "NYPD REDO." The story: "Kelly orders review of street narcotics tactics after fatal Bronx shooting." The aptly named police officer Richard Haste, who fired the bullet that killed 18-year-old Ramarley Graham in his Bronx apartment after a chase, was never properly trained in street-crime tactics, it was revealed yesterday, and so a top-to-bottom review of police procedures will follow. Haste has been assigned to desk duty while the Bronx district attorney investigates the shooting.
Observations: I know Peyser isn't on the front page today, but her column illustrates the degree to which the Post is willing to play to the types of readers who populate their fanatical (and anonymous) comments section.
Before we get to the moral questions, let me get one purely technical matter out of the way: The accuser doesn't have a very interesting story. She's a paralegal and aspiring actress, you can find her on LinkedIn and Facebook (as of this writing, at least). She's not being fired from her job, and she is not being charged with falsely accusing Kelly. The police believe she believes she is a crime victim; they just have decided they can't make a case. There's as yet no whiff of a civil case. So what is the payoff in making her the story now? What will the Post get out of it? Meanwhile, I honestly suspect that the treatment of the woman the Post calls a "'rape' beauty" will turn lots of people off on moral grounds. Sometimes the Post is just an execrable newspaper, and while a little sleaze probably helps sales, there's a point of diminishing returns, and it's arrived on the Kelly story.
It's enough to decide the thing, for me.
Winner: Daily News.