12:10 pm Feb. 21, 20124
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: When journalists think about newspaper "campaigns," they're usually imagining a series of investigative articles into hospital practices meant to shine a light on some health-insurance atrocity, or a series of profiles meant to take an obscure issue like lead poisoning or asthma rates and place it at the top of someone's legislative agenda, or generally to solidify public opinion around a controversial issue to force some government action. But there are of course other kinds of campaigns.
Right now the Post is in the middle of a campaign to make New Yorkers (beyond the small circle of wealthy "influencer"-types Page Six already has eating out of its hand) care about obscure European royals. It's something they can do that the News probably can't (ironically, since the News' new editor, Colin Myler, is actually a veteran of the royals-obsessed British tabloid scene).
The subject of their cover today is an incident that occurred after midnight Friday night at Double Seven, an annoying-sounding nightclub in the Meatpacking District. And the Post has a long interview with "former Hawaiian Tropic Zone owner Adam Hock" giving his side of the story. (He is pictured with his arm in a sling.)
Hock apparently put the beatdown on Prince Pierre Casiraghi and his royal cohort, which included the much more locally famous Greek shipping heir and former Paris Hilton boyfriend Stavros Niarchos, also more locally famous Vladimir Restoin Roitfeld, the son of former French Vogue editor Carine Roitfeld, and someone named Diego Marroquin who I think is a former soccer player. Out of it, the Post reports, the most stunning injury is a "disfiguring" broken jaw sustained by Casiraghi.
So, the margin the Post needs to close between its circulation and that of its rival, the News, is probably larger than the number of people in New York who know who these people are, or care. And yet it gives the Post a certain cachet that probably matters with luxury advertisers and the Manhattan smart-set to dwell on this stupid affair.
It's the sort of thing that is meat and drink, as they say, for the British and continental-European gossip-purveyors. To a New York audience, though, this bar fight won't sound too different from the kind of thing you hear goes on at big Russian discos in Sheepshead Bay all the time.
Still, they have to sell the story. There are a few ways in for regular New York readers, and the Post is careful to lay a crumb trail for them. I'll score each on a scale of one to 10 for effectiveness:
— Casiraghi is the grandson of Grace Kelly: 3 points (goes up to 7 for readers over 60).
— Niarchos used to date Paris Hilton: 5 points (would be higher if this were 2005).
— The fight took place in a Meatpacking District nightclub, over a table and a $500 bottle of Grey Goose vodka: 4 points (very "Lifestyles of the Rich and Stupid").
So that's all to say, I don't figure the Post has much of a chance with this campaign of making a huge impact, beyond whatever luxury-advertising imperative they're hoping to satisfy. Their only choice is between sticking with it and keeping it on the front page every day for a week until it starts to get sticky, or dropping it right now and forgetting it ever happened.
All that said, they did try their best today: "ROYAL PAIN!" reads the big white text next to a picture of the non-famous Adam Hock with his arm in a sling. "$500 vodka brawl guy rips prince." There's an exclusive tag in the online version: Only the Post interviewed Hock (Who else tried, I wonder?), but curiously the "exclusive" tag is not on the front of the print edition. And there's some lede text, which mostly name-checks the names in the story.
Daily News: So yesterday Mariano Rivera let slip—emphasis on "let"—that he's planning to retire after this season. The controlled announcement makes for a readymade front page, if you've got nothing else, and apparently the News did not. But what is confusing about the front page today is the design. A giant picture of Rivera is covered in huge black letters with white outline (huh?) that is, mysteriously, not in all caps. "Say it ain't so, Mo" it reads, if you can read the up-and-down black-and-white type against the shocking green and pinstriped background of the photo. Really it looks messy, like the letters are formations of ants that start moving when you focus to hard on them. "Hints strongly this season will be his last" reads the dek.
As if to emphasize their lack of enthusiasm for this as a cover story, two completely outlandish boxes along the left-hand side steal just a bit of the spotlight, which is unfortunate for those stories. One is about a new Nike shoe that glows in the dark. "Is this the hottest shoe in town?" asks the headline under a picture of the sneaker. (The answer is, only for the shortish line of people the paper found waiting outside a store for the shoe to go on sale.)
Underneath is a picture of a very sweet-looking young child of indeterminate gender looking at a book. The pattern on the child's sweater kind of makes it look like bubbles are floating up out of the book. "25 words your kid must know by age 2," reads the headline.
Observations: Well I'm giving everyone a hard time today. But what it boils down to, to me, is that the News is giving its audience what it wants, while the Post is giving its audience what it wants them to want. I honestly don't believe enough people care about this royal brawl to move papers. If I'm wrong, someone from the Post please send along stats!
Winner: Daily News.