11:30 am Oct. 12, 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?
THE POST IS CONCERNED: Joe Biden dominated his debate last night with Paul Ryan.
But what that means is open to interpretation in today's tabloids.
The New York Post is concerned for Democrats today: Joe Biden's success in the debate was such a stark contrast to President Obama's that he may be undermining the ticket! It's only suggested on the front page ("VOTE FOR JOE! Preening VP shows O how to debate") but the treatment is fleshed out in the paper's interior coverage.
Here's the lede of Post Washington correspondent S.A. Miller's write-up:
Vice President Joe Biden last night gave a powerful debate performance that helped clean up President Obama’s own debate mess, but may have caused another problem — he showed up his boss.
A few other moments stood out to me, which are admittedly a bit more nerdy and copy-desky:
Biden cut off Ryan as the rep. criticized the Obama administration for failing to provide enough security at the US consulate in Libya, where terrorists killed the ambassador and three other Americans.
Notice that the way this sentence is written requires it to be understood as a fact that the administration failed to provide enough security, and not a debatable position.
That's fine. But the assertiveness is only applied to descriptions of Biden's positions.
Where Biden makes "accusations" and "says" things ("Biden said Obama had taken bold measures to save the middle class during the recession;" "Biden went after Ryan for being part of a ticket that he said will lavish tax cuts on millionaires"), in Miller's account, Ryan "notes" administration failures and Obama campaign problems:
[Ryan] noted that ObamaCare raids Medicare of about $716 billion.
Biden was under intense pressure to outperform Ryan last night and make up for Obama bombing a week earlier against Romney.
Ryan noted that at the debate last night.
The piece that began suggesting that Biden's winning performance "may have caused another problem" by "showing up his boss" seems to be resolved a few paragraphs later without difficulty: he has caused one: "But in the process of outclassing the younger, less experienced Ryan, Biden upstaged Obama, who struggled in his Oct. 3 debate against Mitt Romney."
Biden should have thrown the debate. What are the Democrats thinking?
We don't get much of Biden-Ryan on the front page of the News, just a strip across the top. It's clear who the News will report was the winner, not so much because of the text ("SMILIN' JOE BITES BACK") but because the photo silhouettes of the two men's faces are chosen for their comedy-tragedy expressions. Biden is smirking like he just caused a bucket of water to fall on your head after you walked into the room (it's the same exact Biden silhouette that peeks out of the lower-left hand corner of the Post story today), and Ryan is wearing a frown that is so pronounced his face looks like it must be made of Muppet-felt.
CLINCHER: Instead, the News goes big on last night's Yankees loss to the Orioles. Baltimore forced a Game 5 in the division series by beating the Bombers 2-1 last night in yet another extra-innings, low-scoring nail biter.
"UH-O" says the News, the "O" in red and rendered in the script style of the Orioles logo. "Yanks fall to Orioles in 13th, face do-or-die game today."
The picture is of Joba Chamberlain, taking a knee after he was injured in the right elbow by a broken bat in the 12th. In the 13th, manager Joe Girardi again put in a pinch-hitter for A-Rod, who struck out with two men on base in the eighth, but this time used Eric Chavez, who didn't get the result Girardi got out of Raul Ibanez the night before.
And, in fact, the Post, which gives a slightly smaller half page to the Yankees, shows a defiant and angry A-Rod, looking very much like he will take the Yankees' $114 million whether he deserves it or not. (The text, "For the birds," is a throwaway at this point in any series against a bird-themed team. It's time to retire that number.)
It's quite perfect how predictable the papers are: the News gives us a minor workplace accident while the Post gives us an ungrateful, overpaid employee.
OBSERVATIONS: The Post's silly analysis notwithstanding, the News manages little better than the headline you'd expect in a yearbook page covering the event. The page might have had more impact with an action shot for the Yankees game, or a close-up of a grieving A-Rod or Nick Swisher (who also kind of bombed last night). The "O" is a bit of flair but it's too wispy to read right and the orange isn't contrasty enough against the blurry-crowd background to read well.
When it comes down to it, as silly as the Post headlines are, it's a weak day all around and the page just has more impact. It's a design win today.
WINNER: New York Post.