3:12 pm Sep. 6, 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?
Now that Paul Ryan has picked up the Post's talking points yesterday about the Obama campaign and the national debt (he's trying it out but I don't think it's doing very well—it's hard, at the end of it all, to connect with voters over national debt) the paper ignores the convention again, despite Bill Clinton's much-watched and talked-about speech. As I said yesterday, I appreciate the Post's front-page disinterest in the spectacle of it all, but I wonder if it doesn't have a cost. Not that the News does much to make a sale on the Clinton speech: His face is up there in a little skybox next to the sad Giants skybox. "BLUBBA!" reads the pale yellow text, which is probably a reference to one observation about Clinton's speech—that it was very long. "Bill thunders on—Pages 6,7,8." A minor point: The News seems to have picked up the Post habit of listing page numbers for dramatic effect rather than writing them as ranges: We got Clinton on page 6! And page 7! And page 8! Apparently that's more dramatic than just "Pages 6-8".
'Cowgirls' get the blue
Yesterday, according to the New York Post, the Dallas Cowboys were just a bunch of girls about to get shown the game of football by the New York Giants. Today, they're boys again: "'Boys lasso Eli & Giants" reads the almost apologetic headline under a picture of Elite Quarterback Eli Manning, who looks like he's uttering an angry "C'mon!" The Daily News gives it just a little skybox up top, with the Giants logo and the words "BIG BOO! Giants lose opener—See sports."
The Giants get another, less fortunate shout-out on the front page of both papers today: Police are searching for a man in a Giants hoodie who robbed a gas station right near the southwest corner of the Bronx Zoo and shot the attendant, 28-year-old accounting student and Gambian immigrant who was working the night job to send money home to his family, after a struggle. The attendant, Lamin Sillah, died of his injuries.
The reason this is such a big story is because of the store's video monitor, which captured the struggle and the shot. A still of the video appears on both front pages, and shows the assailant, the hood of his blue Giants jersey tied tight around his face, yelling at Sillah with his gun raised up and pointing directly at Sillah's face. This isn't the moment of the shooting; Sillah's own arm is outstretched to ward off the gun in this still, and we know that ultimately the bullet hit Sillah in his midsection. But even if that still were available, it's a dicey proposition to picture the moment of a person's death on the front page of a newspaper.
It's an incredibly sad immigrant tale. But this story would be buried inside the local pages if it weren't for the video footage. That's what makes it a front-page story.
"MOMENT OF MURDER" reads the knockout-white text on the front of the Post, over the still. "Horror in the Bronx" is the dek. The only other explanation of the story is in the caption: "A thug pulls a gun on hardworking Lamin Sillah at a Bronx gas station an instant before shooting him dead. The killer and his accomplice got away."
"Heartless," reads the big knockout-white text on the front of the News, over a different still image from the same scene. But despite the image's relative clarity, the News puts a big red circle around the shooter's gun hand. "Punk kills gas station worker in brutal Bronx holdup" reads the white subheading beneath. The News has also cropped in the digital time-stamp from the video, an indicator of authenticity.
The Post headlines accompanying a photo-driven story are often really about the photo, while the News' are often about the story. That holds up today. But which headline is more grabby? I expect it depends whom you ask. For the people who are coming for the grisly, true-crime details, the Post will look more promising. For the people who want to tsk-tsk their way through their morning coffee, "Heartless" is the better bet. It's a tough call.
On the other hand, the Post chose a better still. In the Post photo, the assailant is looking straight into his victim's face, and seems to be yelling; the gun is up and not obscured by Sillah's hand. In the News photo, the two are struggling with the gun, partially obscuring it (and requiring the red circle). The News still has more of the confrontation in it, but the Post photo actually has better information in it.
But finally, even though I know that the reason this is wood is because of the photo, it's the story that requires readers to buy and open the paper. So I'm gonna go with that.
As for the rest of the gunk on the front pages, let's just call it a draw.
Winner: Daily News.