12:27 pm May. 15, 20123
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: The Post has had a long love affair with the story of Pedro Espada. Remember the front from almost exactly two months ago today: "PAY-DRO'S $CAMILY"?
But if their interest in raking the disgraced ex-state senator over the coals for "the taxpayer-funded Bronx health clinic he founded in order to finance a lavish lifestyle for himself, friends and family" hadn't been enough to give him a big front page today, the photo, from the Associated Press, of Espada leaving court yesterday would have decided the matter. He looks like he's just seen a ghost, when in fact I think the person he's just seen is Post columnist Andrea Peyser, who envelops herself in the justice doled out to him like a polecat in its own odor. Her column accompanies the straight news report inside, and in several instances uses colorful metaphor to describe Espada as a pig. He could get up to 10 years in jail, but sentencing guidelines suggest he'll clock a few years less than that in reality.
One of the reasons the photo is so great for the Post is that it fits perfectly the theme they've been working of Espada's craziness during the trial. At different times he's sought to portray his indictment as a racist witch-hunt, and even ascribed voodoo and witchcraft to the prosecution, showing up wearing rosaries around his neck (which Catholics tell Peyser isn't done, thought I suspect she talked to an Irish Catholic, maybe even Col Allan). Paradoxically, Espada's other affect was good humor. He smiled a lot, joshed around with the court reporters, and was pretty free with interviews on the courthouse steps. This picture shows that the conviction hit him like a ton of bricks, giving the Post a dramatic leitmotif for the day's events.
"Finally, greedy swine must cry oinkle!" reads the Peyser headline inside. The main news hed inside reads "Smile wiped off Pedro's face."
And now, the front, with that miraculous picture. The headline reads simply, "TIME TO PAY-DRO." The dek, floating above the main hed, grabs a bit of pork: "Espada guilty; pig pol faces 40 years in prison." (He really can't possibly end up in jail for that long actually.)
Daily News: Last time Espada made the front page of the Post, the News went with a mob story ("SOBFELLA," about a groveling stool-pigeon). At the time, I said:
Does the new News editor, British import Colin Myler ... believe that mafia cover stories are good business for the News? If so, is it because internal circulation and survey figures show that mafia covers sell? Because he has a foreigner's fascination with the topic and imagines it's as fresh to all of us as it is to him?
But today's story is a double-whammy, taking a longstanding obsession with the casting of the Gotti family's movie and making it relevant again because of all the allegations against John Travolta. Really, it was the Post that obsessed over the Gotti-Travolta tale (DON TRAVOLTA!), presumably because they are short on real Mafia stories but have an old connection to former Post columnist Victoria Gotti. Does the News think they've stolen something from the Post, perhaps? "You Gotti be jokin'!" reads the main hed (curiously in up-and-down type instead of all-caps, which looks British to me). "Mama and junior still want Travolta to play Dapper Don."
But there's lots more on the page. Along the left, a picture of Kim Kardashian in hot pants, fishnets and knee-high boots touts an inside story about how "Kardashian wants her relationship with Kanye West to provide a Beyoncé-size boost to her off-the-rack, reality-TV image" by letting West squire her around Britain for the Watch the Throne tour.
And up top, "FIRST BLOOD: RANGERS DOWN DEVILS IN GAME 1."
Observations: It's getting hard to judge the News' tactics. I might have thought once that if there were news about Travolta and the Gotti movie, it would be on the front page of the Post, and that a state politician getting sent up the river would be more News territory. But first of all, we have a new(ish) editor on the News. Maybe he is slowly making his influence felt on the front page? And of course Espada was a particular hobbyhorse for the Post.
So I'm left with a frequent question, whether celebrity trumps local interest, only the papers are reversed. In this case, of course, it's quite a big local interest, and the Post makes a meal of it. Still, the Travolta-Gotti story comes out of an exclusive interview; and though the paper's obsession with Beyoncé has led to a sideline business in Kardashians, they also move on the newsstand.
If the News had turned up the volume one more notch, and been a little funnier too, it would have been closer. But what I keep coming back to is that incredible picture of Espada. At a certain point, too many pictures of celebrities just makes your newspaper not look like a newspaper, but something that is totally interchangeable with surfing the web or reading the gossip magazines. And then why spend 75 cents at all?
Winner: New York Post.