12:55 pm May. 23, 20122
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: There are a lot of headlines attending to the News' exclusive on the ongoing saga of John Travolta's sexual-harassment accusers. "REVEALED: Travolta's secret pitch" appears in the middle of the page, in red type outlined in black. Then a black box with the word "GREASED" in big, knockout-white type; then a badge in white on red reading "EXCLUSIVE," then a dek that reads "Star offers masseur $125G to settle sex claim: source."
There's a picture of John Truesdale, the Atlanta masseur who was known only as John Doe No. 2 until the News revealed his identity over the weekend and splashed a photo of them on their front page, and on the right, one of Travolta looking serious. This is a pretty straight sale; the joke "GREASED" doesn't do much for me and I have no idea why they need "REVEALED: Travolta's secret pitch."
Inside you won't find the source of the story named, though neither Truesdale nor his new lawyer, Gloria Allred, is quoted denying the story. That is left to Travolta's lawyer, who dismisses it as "completely false."
It's a pretty big scoop if it's true. Though it's not unheard of for someone as rich as Travolta to settle a false nuisance lawsuit with a cash offer, the disincentive is that it could create a public impression the suit did, in fact, have legs.
Speaking of which: The news that Bar Rafaeli topped Maxim's "HOT 100" list has no legs, but lots of leg, and a bare bottom, and a pretty face. A shot of Rafaeli lying nude on the beach is only tenuously connected to any of the material inside: a guide to local beaches and a "SEEN & HEARD" item in which Rafaeli is photographed with a pilot on a flight to Los Angeles. Pretty skimpy!
New York Post: There is, however, no sex to be found on the cover of today's Post. Its ongoing campaign to boost charter schools gets a lift from an editorial and a cover that says "THE GREAT ESCAPE," as new numbers from the not-un-self-interested New York City Charter School Center have shown that 67,500 students have applied for 14,600 openings in charter schools in New York City. "Kids' charter crush hits record high," reads the dek, and the lede sentence of this putative news story reads, "Do the math and you'll find that kids and parents desperate to get out of regular city schools face heartbreaking odds ..."
Having done this math many times over with friends who wanted their kids in city gifted-and-talented programs, private-school scholarship programs and even just decently well-regarded regular public schools, I already know that it's not easy to improve upon regular local public-school offerings. But since we don't know how many of these 67,500 kids ended up with other, perfectly good school options (in fact we don't even really know if these charter schools were the parents' top choices among the options under consideration) we don't really know just how "heartbreaking" these numbers are. (What would we get if we added up all applications for all public-school slots, counting alternative choices? More heartbreak, I'm sure.)
And while the numbers are "new" they are not particularly surprising, are they? The chief case for charter schools was never that they are popular with parents, as all specialized programs necessarily are. See, again, the crisis over the number of seats at public schools' gifted-and-talented programs, too, though there are not yet numbers for the total number of seats on offer next year in city gifted-and-talented programs.
The rest of the front page: "Yanks flush Royals" (get it?) and "Facebook has no friends: Price plunge amid fiasco," a typically rash take on the diminishing share price for the brand-new public offering.
Observations: It's actually not a hard day to judge at all, but the results are the opposite of what they usually are with these two titles. Sure, Bar Rafaeli and John Travolta are a little silly. But one is pretty and the other is pegged to a news break. Whereas the Post is an awful lot of text and no sex at all. Remember the thing about sex? It sells.
Winner: Daily News.