1:35 pm Apr. 23, 20125
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: Job security is pretty much an oxymoron these days. The lengths people will go to to secure it are getting extreme—and they're not securing it.
Debbie Stevens is a Long Island woman who, the Post exclusively reports (this is one of those exclusives where you half suspect it's just that nobody else was that interested), was fired from her job after taking the extraordinary step of donating her kidney to her boss. Well, she was ready to do that, but they weren't quite a match; instead, because she provided a kidney to the organ market on behalf of her boss, Jackie Brucia, Brucia was able to move up the list for a transplant from a more suitable match.
Stevens had moved to Florida but wanted to return to the West Islip company that owned new-car dealerships, and asked Brucia for advice. The two discussed Brucia's health problems. Stevens did indeed decide to move to Long Island. Stevens got a job with Brucia in two weeks, and two months later Brucia took Stevens up on her offer to donate the kidney.
And then, after Stevens missed work after the surgery, she—well, this isn't totally clear—lost her office, her overtime deal, and finally was moved to an undesirable satellite office (it's unclear how many of these decisions were Brucia's to make). She saw a psychiatrist and a lawyer, had her lawyer send a letter to the company, and was fired.
Her case is before the state Human Rights Commission, and I'll admit I haven't read it. There may be more substance to it than the Post implies in its article. But to me, it seems obvious that donating a kidney to your boss in the expectation of any kind of special consideration at work is a little insane. In Stevens' own words to the Post, one of Brucia's admonishments was "You can’t come and go as you please. People are going to think you’re getting special treatment." Which is precisely what this article is suggesting she believes it was her human right to receive, I think.
Anyway, this story is nowhere on the Post homepage right now, for whatever that's worth as an indication of the length of its legs. It's pretty clear why this got the front: The paparazzi picture of Brucia the Post picks up makes it look like she's lost all her teeth and has a whole peeled lemon in her mouth. And the headline is "ORGAN DOWNER." Which is pretty good. "Boss fires woman who donated kidney to save her: suit" is the dek.
Daily News: I feel a little bad for News Albany bureau chief Ken Lovett this morning. He wrote a perfectly respectable and somewhat juicy little newsbreak: That Paul McCartney's wife, Nancy Shevell, was vacating her spot on the board of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, and that governor Andrew Cuomo is replacing her with his predecessor in the office, David Paterson. As usual Paterson is swimming around in the piece like a duck that's just had a tub of water poured over its back.
It's an unpaid position so it doesn't particularly make Cuomo look bad. His role will be largely advisory. And as Lovett points out at the end of his article, Paterson, despite the shame of his exit from the governor's office, was pretty successful on a couple of points, like "sounding an early alarm about the impending economic collapse, as well as developing a tactic that strengthens the governor’s hand in dealing with the Legislature during budget negotiations." (The just-so story of how this tactic was born isn't quite as simple as Paterson usually renders it. But the point is that the tactical innovation occurred on his watch, and he was the first to employ it.)
Here's how the News plays it though: "HELP!" over a picture of Shevell and McCartney. (Note to Myler: These kinds of jokes do better back home.)
"EXCLUSIVE: Cuomo needed somebody to replace Beatle bride as MTA & he's picking this guy?" An arrow points to a small photo of Paterson.
What's strange is that usually when they have a news break from a reporter and they want to editorialize on it, they write a ride-along editorial and refer readers to both pages. There is no ride-along editorial to Lovett's piece, which is perfectly balanced and sane. In other words, the paper's front is rather baldly papering over the Lovett news with a treatment more fitting for an editorial. And really, the McCartney connection is pretty slim.
Is this a bid to get Beatles fans to care about unpaid positions on the M.T.A. board and ex-governors of New York?
Since the rest of the page is more advertising for the paper's Baseball Bingo game, I won't bother with it.
Observations: This is a weak day for both tabloids, really, especially when you consider it was a rare good weekend for them. It's only this morning that enough is coming out of the excavation of the Soho basement where investigators had hoped to find some clue that Etan Patz had been there. You can bet tomorrow we'll have headlines that read "NOT A TRACE" and the like. (The world may owe Othniel Miller, the suspect who comes into the picture only if Patz can be connected to this basement "playroom," an apology after the way he's been written about these last few days, in fact.)
But coming up with just lemons, it's fair I think to say that both papers failed to make lemonade. It's just as hard to judge two bad covers as two good ones. What we have really are: Points for "ORGAN DOWNER" joke versus a tangential Paul McCartney connection. I vote for ORGAN DOWNER, though I get a pain in my gut thinking about it.
Winner: New York Post.