11:22 am Feb. 28, 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: Today's News front, as is often the case on the second day after the Oscars, is full of the late-night parties in Hollywood. There's a large box up top with pictures of Jennifer Lopez in two low-cut dresses—the first, the one she wore to the ceremony, and the second the one she wore out for the after parties. "How low should J.Lo go?" asks the hed, in knockout-white type between the two pictures, which are faded into each other in the center of the box. A red bar beneath hypes an "EXCLUSIVE: INSIDE OSCAR'S HOTTEST PARTY." Both stories are played as two-page spreads.
Of them, the "hottest party" sale is the strongest, and delivers inside with lots of details about a single party, Vanity Fair's annual do. The piece, very uncharacteristically for the News, even has a partial seating chart for the party, an old Vanity Fair and New York Post staple. That fits, since Frank DiGiacomo, who has the byline along with his Gatecrasher deputy Carson Griffith, is a graduate of both.
Beneath, another two-page spread (a theme is forming here!), this time about a shootout on the Lower East Side in the early morning hours yesterday. The amazing thing (which was broadcast heavily on the web yesterday) is that officer Thomas Richards, who with a partner was chasing a suspect who then fired at them with a rusty revolver that jammed a bunch, took a bullet near the hip area that was "miraculously" stopped by an extra ammunition clip in a pouch attached to his belt. The picture is a set of gloved fingers (presumably those of an examiner) holding the magazine, which shows a dime-sized dent where the bullet struck.
So the trivalent hed is "MAG-NET": It drew the bullet, like a magnet; it's a pun on cop show "Dragnet"; and they were able to catch the guy they were chasing thanks to that bullet not injuring Richards, so it was a "net" made possible by the "mag."
"Ammo clip takes bullet and saves cop shot in gunfight" reads a dek, next to a minuscule picture of the police officer who was shot.
New York Post: The Post, too, as some post-deadline Oscar-party stuff to give us in print today, but there's not much specificity in the sale. "Page Six takes you inside the Oscar parties" reads the white text (with "Page Six" set in the gossip section's own titling); "INSIDE TODAY" reads a red box which doesn't refer to any pages in particular.
Still, readers are used to finding their way to the must-read column by now. It is indeed entirely a collection of small reports from different Oscar parties, though most of the events described are sourced to "spies" or "attendees" or "witnesses," which makes it seem as though the page was reported by calling people who were there instead of going to the parties themselves.
Strangely, the picture used on the front isn't a part of the Page Six reporting, but a picture of models Heidi Klum and Bar Rafaeli together. Another picture of the two is used inside the paper in a totally separate page-three report by David K. Li. Also wondrous is the very wholesome shot of the two, smiling right at the cameras and looking for all the world like two girls next door, albeit very pretty ones. Inside, the two are pictured from behind, patting each other on their bottoms, faces turned forward, licking their lips. Is this photo not on the front as a matter of taste? I find it difficult to believe (though it is a little tasteless).
The bottom is where the news is: "2 DEADLY MINUTES," reads the huge black type. "Elevator 'safety' disabled just before tragedy" is the dek.
The picture of Suzanne Hart, the Y & R ad executive who was killed in mid-December in a freak elevator accident that has had many New Yorkers leaping very quickly into their own elevators since. It appears from a report by the city's Department of Investigation and Department of Buildings that mechanics working on the elevator disabled a "safety" and then went on a break without putting the elevator out of service or warning anyone the safety was off. The investigation further found that one of the mechanics attempted to cover up the fact that the safety was off when he and other mechanics left the building to go on a break a little before 10 a.m. that morning, just when Hart entered the elevator that suddenly shot upward, trapping her between the open car door and the threshold of the door on the lobby floor. The story resonated enough, and this picture of Hart was used enough, that the "elevator tragedy" could be nothing but this. People will read it.
Observations: We mentioned briefly on Friday that it looked like the News, under new editor Colin Myler, was angling for some of the Post's gossip cred. It makes sense: Myler is a graduate of the now-shuttered News of the World, which mixed news of the weird with an obsession with royals, movie and rock stars and, of course, Britain's own homegrown weird reality-show stable of characters. Trade in a few Duchesses for a few trust-fund party kids, and cooking show stars and chefs for the reality show creatures, and you'd have something to cook with in New York.
In that effort, Myler has one pretty useful weapon in his stable in DiGiacomo. At the same time, News Corp. has sent longtime Page Six editor Richard Johnson out to the coast to run a Hollywood bureau for its tablet-only magazine, The Daily; this has, since late 2010, placed the city's longtime-champion gossip column under the leadership of Emily Smith. You can see the beginning of a tabloid gossip battle unfolding in this piece by the Observer's Zeke Turner from late 2010. The only reason it didn't quite come to pass before is that since then, Boston Herald editor Kevin Convey took over the paper. Front-page real estate seldom went to the gossip bureau at the News, and so it was a sleepy time. Apparently, with Convey out and another Fleet Street veteran at the helm, gossip is big again.
It's true that the News and its "Gatecrasher" franchise has a lot of work to do if it means to topple the eminent Page Six. But it's also true that it's doable. Especially if, as today, simply using the name "Page Six" and saying they are reporting on Oscar parties looks like enough to beat an obviously revved-up gossip operation at the News. It wouldn't have been hard; there's plenty of good stuff, and picking out a lead, like Tim Tebow's popularity, or Ashton Kutcher at Madonna's party, or Brad Pitt and George Clooney's smallish private dinner—something at any rate to give the sale some specificity and a news feel—would have done the trick. I wonder if the Post doesn't see the necessity?
That said, of the two city stories today—the elevator tragedy and the cop shootout, the former has the more obviously broad appeal. And "2 DEADLY MINUTES" is a pretty nice, straight shot. But again it looks like Myler is coming for them; "MAG-NET" is a little obscure and not quite on the mark, but looks more like Post- level copywriting than anything we saw at the News for the last year and a half.
Winner: Daily News