10:27 am Mar. 8, 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: So where is Anna Gristina's little black book? The front page of today's News, for the third day running, sells the story of the East Side Madam who on Monday was arrested on charges she ran a high-end brothel out of an apartment on East 78th Street. Sticking with its baffling typographic theme of red military stenciling for the story, a large black field that takes up most of the page is emblazoned with the word "EXPOSED," set at a slight angle in red. Three bullet points:
- Madam's ties to FBI, NYPD, DA
- CEOs, pols & royalty on books
- Life inside ring of sin
There's a red box, on the lower left, also skewed, with knockout military stenciling that reads "EAST SIDE SEX SCANDAL," and (finally) the recognizable glamor photo of Gristina from Facebook, silhouetted against a white box with the lede in it. Four pages are advertised.
In fact, what is "exposed" is an interview with an unnamed woman who was once employed by Gristina, asserting that very important famous people were clients, a little about why she liked working for Gristina (who takes a 40 percent cut rather than the pimp's traditional 50), and a repeat of Gristina's claims (which are already in the 100 hours of recordings that were taken by investigators over the last five years) that she had influence in law enforcement circles that would help protect her from arrest. None of these important, famous people are named, and the rest doesn't really seem new. How long will the News be able to tease us with the prospect of identifying Gristina's clients without delivering the goods, I wonder?
There is one name named inside the paper, though: The Morgan Stanley banker who was meeting with Gristina when cops arrested her is David S. Walker—though he was first identified not by the News but by the site DNAinfo, to whom he gave an exclusive interview.
At the top of the page, our friend Eli's brother Peyton Manning is pictured in full gear. "JETS MAKE MOVE FOR PEYTON" reads the straightforward hed, in yellow type with a deep drop shadow and what looks like a Gaussian blur applied to the crowd in the background, to make the text more legible. (Maybe the photo original really was that deeply focused on Manning?)
New York Post: Of course it's always good to have fun with the headline when you can. But if you come up short on humor, nothing beats the straightforward sale. "PAY TON!" reads the hed in giant black type in a box in the lower right of the page. There's a small head-and-shoulders silhouette of Manning and the somewhat inscrutable dek: "Jets call free Mann." He is indeed a free man; the Colts, to avoid paying out a $28 million roster bonus, gave Manning his free agency, and the Jets are hoping to unite the Manning Brothers for next season. Plus, Post columnist Steve Serby urges them on. I guess it works.
I've said it so many times I am boring myself. Today's issue of the Post has a free insert—Page Six Magazine. And, once again, the front page sells the fact that they are inserting the magazine, rather than selling the cover story itself. Which is silly: It's a big interview with "Mad Men" and stage star Elizabeth Moss, wearing a Burberry overcoat over some very pretty black undergarments which are just visible thanks to the way the coat is styled (and the fact that she is lifting the bottom of it to reveal her panties and thigh-high stockings). So there's a picture of the cover of the magazine, and the words "Page Six Magazine FREE INSIDE TODAY," instead of "Elisabeth Moss reveals herself: Talks about being bad, her short marriage to Fred Armisen, blah blah blah." Hey guys, whether it's a magazine insert or not, it's a story that you are distributing today, and it's a good one! Sell it!
It's especially mystifying because they are willing to do this very work for other magazines, like Elle, which is featuring a Carter Smith photo gallery of pregnant Jessica Simpson. Never mind the fact that the naked famous pretty pregnant lady portrait is now a boring cliche that probably doesn't deserve all this coverage. The Post reproduces the picture over almost half the front page, with the words "Oh, baby! Jessica lovelier than ever."
Observations: So there are lots of pictures of underdressed girls on the front of one paper, and a story about prostitution without any underdressed girls on the other. Let's say that the Post just scraped by with the PAY TON joke and won the Manning story, even though their substantive editorial position on the matter is arguable, to put it kindly. It's really about the Day 3 Gristina package versus Page Six Magazine and Elle photo shoots. It's all pretty grim, and it's also a tough call. On the margin, though, I'm going to give it to the paper that looks like it has actual news (even though it doesn't, quite.)
Winner: Daily News.