9:48 am Feb. 10, 2012
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: "WHACKED FROM THE GRAVE" sounds pretty cool, doesn't it? The problem I'm having is I can't figure out what it means.
The dek explains the substance of the story: "Sammy Bull vics' kin want TV daughter's dough." Karen Gravano, a star of the VH-1 reality show "Mob Wives," is writing a book about her life with her father, the Gambino underboss notorious for his involvement in the murder of Gambino boss Paul Castellano, and later for turning state's evidence in the trial and conviction of John Gotti.
A hit man with a long career, Gravano had many victims, and several of them are looking to use the Son of Sam law or others like it in other states to argue that Gravano's family is continuing to profit from Sammy Gravano's crimes. It's a long shot since most of his convictions are federal and Son of Sam laws are generally state laws. But back to the point: His victims' families tell the News that it's like experiencing the murder of their loved ones over and over again as the Gravano story is retold.
So are their already dead relatives being "whacked from the grave"? Is Sammy's daughter being "whacked from the grave" because dead people's relatives want money from her?
It's a texty page, with the white type of the Gravano headline on a black background taking up most of the space, and only a small picture of Karen Gravano to break it up.
All the rest is skyboxes, one touting Victor Cruz's offseason play for more money from the Super Bowl-champion Giants, and another referring readers generally to coverage of "Linsanity," the fan obsession with Knicks hero Jeremy Lin.
New York Post: There are a few strange things about the cover feature about Macaulay Culkin, but let's begin with the look of it. Two pictures of Culkin—one the oft-repeated "Aaah!" look of his days as child star of the Home Alone franchise; the other as he is now, gaunt and goateed and wearing a floppy leather jacket. Between the two, the words "Bones alone!" and red and blue arrows pointing to his "THEN" and "NOW" looks. It's like the worst kind of celebrity-website "MEMBA HER?" item.
The problem is that we don't particularly need to be reminded of Macaulay Culkin: He's a fixture of the P.R. step-and-repeat party photo sessions that happen every day, a frequenter of popular nightclubs often photographed at same, and even at times a celebrity iPod D.J., as the story points out at length. The Post doesn't present any evidence that Culkin is anything but skinny; that is, while they ask the question whether he's doing drugs or has anorexia, the only answer they get is "no." So what's this all about?
It's the bottom half of the page that gets down to business, with a narrative turn (albeit on slightly unsure ground) in the story of Yankees general manager Brian Cashman. As you know, Cashman is seen by investigators as the target of a shakedown by a woman named Louise Meanwell, who doesn't mean well at all. Emails between the two of them seem to establish they had an affair of undetermined length last year; relatedly, Cashman's wife has filed for divorce. The question is whether the thousands of dollars Cashman deposited into Meanwell's accounts were gifts, like others she has demonstrated she received from him in the course of their affair, or extortion money. Meanwell wrote emails to Cashman and his lawyer threatening to expose their affair if she wasn't taken care of. If he was giving her cash gifts before he was giving her money to shut her up, it could be harder to establish that he was the victim of a shakedown. The line between being a demanding lover and being a shakedown artist, you see, is a thin one.
It's an exclusive, and in some ways takes a bite out of the News' lunch; while both have been covering the Cashman story extensively, the News has been more frequently depending on the developing saga to sell papers, with front-page placements. But the Post headline is a bit lacking in energy. "CASH MONEY" it reads; there's a picture of the Eeyorish Cashman poking out of the lower right-hand corner, and a dek that reads "DA subpoenas Yank honcho's bank records." (Nice internal rhyme!) Nobody has yet beat the News' "CASHANOVA," but is anybody at least trying?
Observations: It's a heartening day today, after yesterday's controversies, because both tabloids are reaching for their own bottles of hot sauce. The News plucks out a home recipe: A slow-burning mob story by John Marzulli. The Post goes for celebrity gossip reported from dark nightclubs. But for both papers, the main meal has to be real exclusives on real news stories. And the Post has a better one today.
Winner: New York Post.