12:45 pm Aug. 27, 20121
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?
Big man in Tampa
If you've been following the fortunes of New Jersey governor Chris Christie closely, then you might have scratched your head to see the front page of today's New York Post.
Under a picture of the governor it says "FAT CHANCE" in big bold letters, with a subhed floating above it that reads "Revealed: the secret reason Chris would not run for VP."
In fact, the "secret reason" is multifactored, and one of the big factors was Christie's unwillingness to leave his job as governor, which was already revealed two weeks ago by Josh Margolin, the same reporter who wrote today's cover story.
To be fair, there's a different topspin today, and the article is much longer.
On Aug. 13, Margolin wrote just that Christie "was high on Mitt Romney’s list but refused to resign as governor in order to run," sourcing it to "a Romney insider."
Today's story leads with: "Gov. Chris Christie wasn’t willing to give up the New Jersey statehouse to be Mitt Romney’s running mate because he doubted they’d win." (Emphasis mine.)
In other words, another underline beneath the sentiment that Christie's keynote address, which is likely to drown out all of this transactional politics anyway, is a consolation prize for Romney, not Christie. It works out pretty well for everyone: Christie establishes his independent viability as a national Republican candidate, which is important for 2016 if Romney loses; and there isn't really any skin off Romney's nose, either. It's important and noteworthy that nobody ever says, in today's article, that Christie was favored over Ryan; just that he was high up and took himself out of contention.
As to the decision to take over the front page with it, since it feels like big news, and since the convention begins today, and since everyone else is talking about Hurricane Isaac and other boring things about the convention, it gives them a zag on today's big news story.
It also fits nicely with the point of view the paper has developed on Romney: That the Republicans are kind of bungling 2012. You can read it between the lines, and trace the source back to Rupert Murdoch, who earlier this summer went on a bit of a jag admonishing Romney's operation.
There is some arcana here. Romney keeps appearing on Fox News, also owned by Murdoch's News Corp., but Fox is controlled by Roger Ailes, who has his own ideas about politics; whereas the Post has its own master, Col Allan, who historically has more directly channeled whatever the spirit of Murdoch may be at the moment into the sensibility of the paper.
The Isaac sacrifice
Well, whatever the deal is with the Post cover, at least they didn't have to do this: "'CANE PAIN" reads the big headline at the bottom of the News front page. "Mitt, GOP ready to party as New Orleans braces for Isaac" is the subhed. It's an overcooked version of the narrative that's been playing out this weekend as the storm course has seemed, seven years to the week after Hurricane Katrina, to veer westward from Tampa and toward New Orleans.
Really the front page is all about doing business, though, over at the News. They've got two new sections to roll out. "OUR HOT NEW GOSSIP COLUMN" is one, with a peek at the inside page layout and a sticker that reads "The best celeb secrets from our top new team." And there are new TV listings in a four-page pullout—BRILLIANT, BETTER AND BIGGER." I'm actually planning to write a review of the new gossip column soon, so for now I'll leave it out.
It's not actually a hard one today, but nor is it quite a fair fight. I know that the front page of the Post will work great, and will get the paper talked about in Tampa, which is where they need to be getting talked about today. 'CANE PAIN won't do that.
But it's not a fair fight because it's never a real grabber when you're advertising a section. Any single one of the bigger items from the section would have gotten more readers; a little note could have been appended to say "it's all in our new gossip section!" But this is not for readers; it's for advertisers, who ask when you get them to buy into something new, "What are you doing to promote it?"
Winner: New York Post.