9:14 am Oct. 24, 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?
A MURDER, A MANHUNT, ANOTHER MURDER: Reporters spent yesterday on their toes after word came through that at about 11:30 a.m., 29-year-old Nassau County police officer Arthur Lopez was shot near a Mobil station in the Bellerose Terrace section of Queens by a man he'd stopped in a flat-tired Honda after chasing him down as a suspect in a hit-and-run earlier in the morning, who then sped off in his car while Lopez's partner tried to save him.
Lopez was rushed to North Shore-Long Island Jewish Hospital in New Hyde Park, where he was pronounced dead, as the suspect sped further into Queens on the Cross Island Parkway. A few minutes further down the road, the suspect ditched the Honda and approached a man who had pulled to the shoulder to talk on the phone.
The suspect shot the man in the head there, took his Toyota and drove it to Queens Village, where he ditched the car and fled on foot. From there, reports are foggy until cops finally caught up with him at 6:30 p.m., sitting in a parked red minivan that had been reported stolen last week. At some point in between, the suspect shot himself twice, though reports differ on where and on the extent of his injuries they are not thought to be life threatening.
The suspect, 33-year-old Darrell Fuller, had been at a dialysis session earlier in the morning. He also has a criminal record, having served five years for attempted murder. After his 2009 release he was picked up again for possession and sale of drugs. He was paroled in 2011, after serving just nine months.
Though reformers have targeted nonviolent drug offenses for less harsh sentencing, in this case Fuller's previous history of violence would normally have been a factor in his sentencing and parole, and he'd have been behind bars until 2015. The Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, an officers' union, says they're looking into that.
Online, by the time you're reading this, there is little different between the accounts in the two tabloids. Some spellings and minor factoids are cleaned up that weren't quite in ship shape for the print editions, so they're not worth pointing out.
It doesn't seem like either paper had the edge on the other. Most of the interviews are clearly nonexclusive, including neighbors and friends of Lopez and Brian Facey, the grandfather who Fuller allegedly pulled out of his Toyota and killed with a single bullet to the head at close range, who was talking to one of his grown daughters about arranging a trip to Jamaica for his mother's 80th birthday over Christmas.
It's the sort of crime that provokes, usually in order, awe at the massiveness of it, and then indignation and anger. But they're all wrapped up together today, at least on the cover of the News. The News treats the story like a Day 2 story, likely because it was also being heavily covered on television news programs and on the web in the course of the day and evening. In other words, the story isn't what happened yesterday, but what we think about it.
A red box reads, in the News' recent wordy style, "Gun maniac kills a hero cop and an innocent dad. He shoots self—but lives. The News says ..."
Then, beneath, in giant knockout-white text, the front reads "DIE, SCUM." News staff photographer Ken Murray got a shot of Fuller being led into the hospital; an inset, oval-shaped portrait of Lopez, who it must be said is an extremely handsome young man, floats in the upper right. There is no photo of Facey here.
You might have the impression that the News was calling for the death penalty for Fuller here, not just hoping he'll die of his injuries. But in fact, it's just an opportunity for the editorial board to sound off, a little inchoately, on both gun-control laws (in favor) and the New York Police Department's "stop-and-frisk" strategy of controlling street crime. (There's also a guest spot from Representative Carolyn McCarthy, a staunch supporter of federal gun legislation whose husband was killed in a Long Island Railroad shooting spree.)
Doesn't it all seem a little New York Post-y? And yet, the Post has ceded the territory, wrapping the fugitive cop-killer story in a gossip item. We'll get to that in a second.
"MAD DOG," reads the black text in a white field that takes up the lower right-hand corner of the front page. "Monster blows away cop and innocent driver" reads a dek, next to two postage-stamp sized pictures: an old Fuller mugshot and that same portrait of Lopez.
EVA LONGORRHEA: I'm frankly stunned by the Post's decision to wrap around the Fuller story with a nonexclusive yesterday-afternoon gossip item of not much consequence. Next to a photo of Eva Longoria of "Desperate Housewives" fame (I can't be bothered to check the provenance, except that it's from Flash News and looks to me like it must be posed) dressed in metallic silver skin-tight low-rise pants and a matching string-bikini top and looking a little bit like she is in the midst of being sacrificed to some ancient sex god and doesn't mind too much, is the headline "Eva breaks Mark's heart." In a panhandle on the extreme upper right, above the story about the cop-shooting, is a tiny picture of New York Jet Mark Sanchez.
They broke up, according to the Post and everyone else who also has the story (TMZ, Us Weekly, and anyone who got the press release from Longoria's P.R. person), because their schedules don't mesh. They'd been going out for four months. Sanchez is kinda sad about it.
What the hell is this? If the paper is just trying to remind us of the existence of Page Six in the post-Richard Johnson era, couldn't they have chosen a bigger get (ideally an exclusive, guys!) to do it with? Did it have to be today? Is there some business reason this had to happen that goes deeper than editorial judgment?
OBSERVATIONS: The evolving battle between the tabloids was widely thought to have been given a shot in the arm with the takeover of the News by Colin Myler, a graduate of Murdoch-style tabloids from Great Britain and a glad hand at provocative low-rent front pages. And it's taking a while for the News to find its footing as that kind of tabloid. It's still got all its union-member and uniformed readers, its outer-borough second-generation ethnic whites and Latinos to cater to. They're not always up for Eva Longoria looking languorous or the Rich People Things that, along with crime, sleaze and various local political outrages, have been the combustive mix of the Post in ages past. It just feels like Myler's rival, the other Colin (Col Allan), is letting it happen.
Perhaps it's because it is, in fact, early to call this a case study in gun control, if not one in parole guidelines. But that latter should have been a strong suit for the Post to sell this cop-shooting on, no? And either way, the News lit the way for them. You can say "DIE, SCUM" on the cover and not worry whether anything between the covers repeats the sentiment. It's a trick the Post has long employed, and seems to have bequeathed to the News. It's a failure of swagger, really; the last kind of failure you expect from the Post.
Winner: Daily News.