A failure of Tebow optimization, and the Whitney Houston details you think you already knew

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Today's tabloids, March 23, 2012. ()
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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: Sometimes, conventional wisdom is ahead of the facts. Take, for example, the death of Whitney Houston. Since, at the very least, a conversation with Oprah Winfrey on "Oprah" in 2003 (it hardly seems worth clicking through more pages of search results) the late pop star has been rather transparent about the magnitude of her drug problem. And since her burial, much of the conversation about Houstson's life and death has focused on the pressures of stardom and the scourge of drug abuse.

The fact that Houston's lifetime of cocaine abuse was a factor in her death, which was revealed yesterday, is of largely clinical importance. How to tell the world that cocaine did in fact contribute to Houston's death, when the world is quite sure it already knew that?

One thing you don't do is blast it over your front page, as the News did today. It's as though some new limb they spawned to arm-wrestle the Post on the details of Houston's death, and which they'd amputated weeks ago as extraneous, started to have phantom pangs. It's as if the editors of the News woke up and saw the coroner's report, but thought, Rip Van Winkle-like, that it was February 12.

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"COKE TRAGEDY" read the urgent, giant white letters at the bottom of the page, with a red box attributing the information to "WHITNEY AUTOPSY REPORT."

"The official cause of death was accidental drowning, but heart disease and chronic cocaine use were cited as contributing factors," comes more from the Department of Things We Swear You Really Didn't Know About Until Now.

Why do you suppose Tim Tebow came over to the New York Jets? "TO BE #1 QB," according to the News. A small picture at the top of the column as a picture of him waving from his car as he arrives ... somewhere. (Likely a town in New Jersey, right?) Below is his football card!

New York Post: Speaking of which, have you ever heard of someone collecting football cards? I mean it's not like these players are Pokemon characters, or even baseball players. "HALO, NEW YORK" reads the big white headline over a much larger picture of Tebow waving from his car window. "Tebow arrives" reads a little dek.

A stripe at the bottom of the page advertises the following fact: "And he already has a Jets football card." The card is reproduced. I think perhaps that the Tebow tabloid gold theory, espoused in this column and by Jeff Bercovici and elsewhere, has had its first big test, and the theory has failed. Seriously: The 24-hour printing of a football card for Tim Tebow?

Observations: What a mess today, eh? That said, I don't know if I'm seeing any better candidates inside. But it's really a question of a race to the bottom. I think Whitney Houston and Tim Tebow are flipped on the News, which means, I guess, that the Tebow story is more compelling than the Houston non-news? Let's try to proceed from there. This football card thing is just killing me. But, "HALO, NEW YORK" is at least a small effort. Very small.

It's nice outside, but that's precisely why we'd like to take our papers out there and read them today, folks. Can you please give us something to look at?

One side-note: What do you think the possibility was that the John Edwards-Anna Gristina story would be kept from the front pages of the tabloids today if anyone other than Post graduate and DNAinfo reporter Murray Weiss had written it? Or if either had been able to advance it?

Winner: New York Post.