10:03 am Jul. 25, 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?
I have to apologize to for being away for a while; business here at Capital has been, well, busy, and it's been hard to maintain the routine, but I'm back in the saddle now. I'm also trying out a different format for the column since I've had time to reflect on it a bit; eager to hear what you think. You can email me at tmcgeveran[AT]capitalnewyork.com or say something in the comments.
The big story with today's tabloids is what isn't the big story. For the first day since the shooting in Aurora, Colo., alleged gunman James Eagan Holmes is nowhere to be found on the front pages. Not that the Aurora shootings are entirely absent:
Mike Bloomberg on guns, again
In the upper left corner of the front page, the Daily News touts an op-ed column by the mayor that masquerades as being a little bit meta: To people who have been saying that the immediate aftermath of the violence at a Dark Knight Rises premiere in Colorado is no time to talk gun policy or engage in Washington feuding, Bloomberg says bosh!
The main, and kind of lame, analogy is to the immediate anti-terror response to the events of Sept. 11. OK, well: Let's remember that for days and weeks we were unsure whether the attacks were going to continue; only in a much broader sense could we argue that crazy spree killings are on the march because the government hasn't passed certain gun-license checks. But that's all cover anyway for Bloomberg to repeat his anti-partisan argument, more legitimate on gun control than most other issues, that all Washington is sitting on its hands and being lame.
(Many Democrats are in fact calling for a renewed assault-weapons ban now, unlike Republicans. But they're not likely to get anything done.)
"Tackle guns NOW!" reads the pale yellow text on a cobalt-blue field. "Bloomberg writes for the News."
I've complained before about giving politicians such constant access to the op-ed pages, because it's not like they lack a platform of their own. But this is pretty tame, and Bloomberg is in fact central to this story.)
My name's not Baby, it's Janet, Aunt Janet if you're nasty
But the big story on the News is a national tabloid sensation: Fighting Jackson clan members. It's almost impossible, for me, to untangle this, but I'll try.
Janet Jackson and some other Jacksons (let's not get too involved in who is on what team) showed up at the home of tMichael Jackson's mother, Katherine, where she's been staying with Michael's three kids: Paris, Prince Michael and Blanket. There was some kind of altercation.
Depending on whom you believe, Janet called Paris a "spoiled little bitch," and there was some slapping. Paris Jackson has been tweeting about it. Katherine has a "mystery ailment." She was spirited to the home of an uncle who is on Team Janet in a fight over Michael's will. Doctor's orders, they say! But Paris seems to be calling it a sort-of kidnapping. Lawyers have released statements.
Meanwhile Tito Jackson has defected from Team Janet over the will dispute.
TMZ is highly involved. Paris (who Gawker proclaims now is "fast becoming America's favorite Jackson") sent an Instagram to TMZ saying most of it didn't happen, but she still keeps tweeting provocatively, if enigmatically, about the removal of her grandmother.
Paris is pictured on the left, with Janet on the right of the main story space on the News front. Between them is a lede-text box with a silhouette of the head of the late Michael. "JACKSONS' FEUD GETS NASTY" reads some red text at the top; then "IT'S WAR," and a dek that reads, rather confidently, "Janet slaps Paris during violent showdown over Michael's will."
While the two teams are at odds over the will, it seems like the showdown was actually over Katherine, and whether she says in her house with her grandkids or goes to Arizona.
Alex Rodgriguez injured
They're no Softees
It's an appetizing picture on the Post, in the midst of all this heat: A triple-decker cone of what looks like cherry ice cream. Of course, it's frozen yogurt and soft-serve ice cream at the center of the latest battle over ice-cream truckery in New York.
The story bounces around a bit, but basically it seems that some rogue Mr. Softee franchisees left the Softee company to form their own soft-serve frozen-yogurt truck company, Froyo. And some Froyo guys are getting into fights with Softee guys. Plus some Softee guys claim to have had guns pulled on them by other Softee franchisees in disputes over truck routes, which are informally understood to be passed along with the purchase of a $25,000 Mr. Softee truck but technically aren't. Some other ice cream people speak, claiming that there is lots of violence in general between ice-cream truck guys, pointing specifically to Softee.
James Conway, vice president of Mr. Softee, says he's not surprised; these rogue franchisees were always a little tough to manage.
(If you'll permit a meaningless disclosure here: Mr. Softee was founded by and is still run by some distant cousins of mine, including James Conway, whom I've never met. It makes me feel slightly disloyal for the fact that I close my windows whenever the truck comes near my house to drown out the terrible song.)
"City's ice cream wars," reads the text, in rather sober up-and-down, smallish type.
"FORGIVE ME FATHER FOR ... I HAVE KILLED"
OK, this is an awesome headline. The story's a bit less compelling. A guy on the lam after his girlfriend was found bludgeoned to death in Ohio showed up at a Midtown Catholic church and grabbed a priest, to whom he confessed to killing the girl.
If this were "Law & Order," there'd be a giant thing about how confessions aren't admissible in court, and priests aren't allowed to reveal secrets told to them in the confessional, but instead it's the real world, so the priest told him, as any would have, that he was morally obliged to turn himself in, which he agreed to do and which the priest then helped arrange. Plus the archdiocese says the priest says it wasn't a confession really; the guy wanted help and guidance about turning himself in when he arrived. It's giant, giant type.
Quick Catholic nerdathon: The prayer they refer to is, as far as I know, usually said in English as "Bless me father, for I have sinned," not "Forgive me." Though it's not a hard-and-fast rule how you open the confession when you walk into the booth. (And in some languages, Spanish for instance, it is closer to "forgive me": "Perdóneme Padre." But Italian: "Mi benedica, padre." Dutch: "Vergeef mij, Vader, want ik heb gezondigd." Germans do something totally different, I believe, and I don't know what the French say.)
Why do we think the papers scotched Aurora today? Surely not because they've grown tired of it for the front page. There certainly wasn't much new stuff yesterday, at least not new stuff it's easy to get a grip on. I wonder if the papers tried but ultimately failed to find a hook, or if they started heeding the victim's rights types who are complaining about Holmes' "valorization" in the tabloid press and on cable TV? I very much doubt that though.
What's interesting to me is that the News, increasingly going in a different direction with its front page under the editorship of British tabloid veteran Colin Myler, goes for national, web-friendly fodder. Looking at the top ten stories on the site, every single one of them has to do with celebrity gossip; nothing local, nothing political.
The overall effect of the two pages is hard to compare. I think the Post runs away with it because of this headline, though. I think there is something nowhere-ish about the News cover, like it could be the cover of a supermarket tabloid. Is the News abandoning its city-tabloid identity? I actually plan to write more about this question soon.
Winner: New York Post.