A scandalous story about Nightingale-Bamford comes out blurry
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?
In a post this morning, the new New York Times ombudswoman Margaret Sullivan writes:
Every year, the anniversary of D-Day, the commemoration of Veterans Day and other important dates cause journalists to try to find the right balance between what readers think is appropriate and necessary and the lack of any actual news to drive the coverage.
Often, other than the local events surrounding an anniversary, there isn’t always much to say that is original. Yet, readers, understandably, want the dates remembered in a substantial way.
She declares it a question of "anniversary journalism," and it's something that arises today looking at the two tabloid fronts. The Daily News has a full-page portrait of the World Trade Center site today, with a somewhat unfortunately chosen type (Times New Roman, Italic, with a black outline; and Times New Roman, Bold, with black outline) spelling out "Remember Them: on 11th anniversary of 9/11, we salute those we lost."
It's significant that so much drama is invested in the presentation. The real information to convey is the depth of coverage the paper is doing—attempting this level of emotional impact is supererogatory. The text tells us that 11 pages inside are going to be devoted to it; it's information that could have been conveyed in a half page or smaller.
At the other extreme is the Post, which makes no mention on its front page whatsoever of the anniversary. This despite the fact that a two-page spread in the news section is devoted to it, plus a 12-page insert called "DOWNTOWN RISING," which is all about real estate in the area surrounding the Trade Center site. (Maybe they felt queasy about making it part of a front-page package, since 5.5 of those pages are ads. There's a mix: S & L Green, the big real estate management company, takes out a full-page ad with a graphic that looks like a mashup of the old twin towers and the shape of the new 1 World Trade Center and a little anniversary message, but the rest of the real-estate ads are just garden-variety building-shilling; there are a couple of messages from unions to workers and uniformed officers commemorating the day, and a slightly queasy-making Bradford Exchange collectible "We Will Never Forget" statue of the old World Trade Center, which flashes red white and blue with LED lights.)
Ode to Nightingale
It's one of those odd cases where a story that should be white-hot for a New York tabloid just isn't.
"'PRIVATE' AFFAIR" reads the big, black text. There's a tiny picture of the Nightingale-Bamford School, and a silhouette of married science teacher Jonathan Fuller, who was suspended this week for behavior "inconsistent with our rules and values," according to a statement released by the school's headmaster. Sources tell the Post that Fuller was accused of conducting an affair with a former student who is now 18 or 19 years old. It was unclear whether the person, whom neither the school nor the Post has named, was a minor or a student at the school when the affair took place.
At a more sober newspaper, the fact that a profile of the student in question is missing would be down to editorial restraint, but here I'm pretty sure it just means the Post doesn't have her identity, because nothing has really stopped them from revealing complainants or victims in the past. Fuller is well liked by students and parents alike. The school is conducting an investigation.
What do we learn? A tawdry tale out of an elite prep school just isn't the same when we don't have lots and lots of details, is it?
It was mostly a day and night of promotional events for Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez over the last 48 hours, which the Post puts on its front page mostly because during that time they were able to buttonhole him and ask for his thoughts on the team's successful opener after a distracting and disappointing preseason. He didn't have much to say!
But what interests me is the fact that the paper, deciding to forego acknowledgement of Sept. 11 altogether (you can expect a full page tomorrow, though, I think, from the ceremonies at Ground Zero), runs a headline on this date that reads "Party time for high-flying Jet."
We'll have to see what the front pages do tomorrow. My instinct is that most New Yorkers make only a passing nod to the date by now, and while there are thousands and thousands of people at Ground Zero and across the city commemorating the event, it's hard to make a front page out of it before it happens. Will the News do it again tomorrow?
Overall though I'm inclined to agree with Sullivan. Without significant news to drive the story onto the front page (arguably the agreement reached, not unintentionally in time for this date, between the city, state and the memorial foundation that runs the Ground Zero Memorial and Museum, written by Josh Margolin, could have worked for the Post, if not the Times) I think even this rather thin showing from the Post has to win.
Though I understand why the News, which still to a degree considers itself the official newspaper of the firehouse kitchen, would make this decision today, I don't think it will win them sales. And that's what we're judging.
Winner: New York Post.