11:15 am May. 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?
New York Post: One of the things that has made headlines difficult in the horrifying case of convicted (and now, sentenced) former police officer Michael Pena is that it was just less than a year ago that Kenneth Moreno and Franklin Mata, two former police officers, were acquitted in a rape case.
Since his indictment in 2009, Moreno had held the tabloid title "'RAPE' COP," and it was pretty hard to come up with something different for Pena, who received a penalty of 75 years to life for sexually assaulting a Bronx schoolteacher at the point of his service revolver. The scare quotes add a complicating factor: The jury convicted Pena of sexual assault but not of rape, a charge the district attorney's office is considering retrying him on. So the facts don't line up anyway to call him RAPE COP, though they maybe do for 'RAPE' COP.
Either way, today's headline seems a poor substitute: "ROT, SEX COP!" To me, a "sex cop" is more like a cop who is caught at a brothel or a strip club. There's no criminality implied here.
The dek helps: "Life for creep who cheated rape verdict."
In the scheme of things Pena looks rather tiny, his head silhouetted in the extreme lower right-hand corner, with a downward glance and a full head of hair. (Television footage suggests his hair is now shaved in a crew cut, and also that his expressions at the sentencing were rather less remorseful looking, so it does seem a curious choice, given the paper's interest in seeing him "rot.") The news here is that he got what is a relatively harsh sentence given the guidelines for what he was convicted of, and a pretty stern remonstrance from the judge.
There's relief from this upsetting story in the person of Beyoncé Knowles, who takes up much of the vertical left half of the page, wearing a complicated Givenchy number that is getting very mixed reviews. It seems to be a flesh-colored bodysuit with an overlay of lace studded with black lace and jewels up top, flaring out to a train studded with increasingly dense black and then purple feathers. But the outfit was news-making for one reason: It was very figure-revealing, and Knowles is getting a lot of mileage for recovering her figure so quickly after childbirth.
The paper's "Pulse" section actually has photos of more than a dozen of last night's attendees at the Metropolitan Museum of Art's annual Costume Institute Ball, many looking a lot better than Knowles, but the Post rightly chose the outfit that was "news" (if not in Bill Cunningham's sense of the word) for the front.
A last-minute sports update for the front: The Rangers winning in overtime, in a strip across the bottom.
Daily News: But missing rather conspicuously from the Post front, given their behavior on the front page lately, was the news coming out of Washington about a foiled plane-bomb plot. Inside, the Post is having a lot of fun, with references to "frighty whiteys," "Fruit of the Boom 2.0," and "Panty Waste" scattered around the copy. What does the News get out of it for its front? "UNDERSCARE!" Not bad. "CIA thwarts new Al Qaeda underwear bomb plot."
But the big story for the News, too, is the Pena conviction. It's wordy, but it works: "SEE YOU WHEN YOU'RE 103," reads the text, in knockout-white except for the age, which is in red with white outline. A banner across the top reads "JUSTICE AT LAST: RAPE COP SENTENCED."
The News, obviously proud of its cover from the sentencing in late March, also puts an image of that cover over a much larger picture than the Post used.
Observations: If I saw a missed opportunity for the Post, it doesn't much matter. The real questions today are whether Knowles' dress, and the Post's rather more vitriolic cop headline, beat the News' larger (if also outdated) picture of Pena and its wordier display. The fact that the Post could have won so easily with FRIGHTY WHITEYS almost pushed me over the edge, but when it comes down to it, the rat-a-tat-tat of short, huge words in ROT, SEX COP and the ridiculous picture of Knowles have to win the day.
Winner: New York Post.