Wood War! Who Wins Today’s Grabby Tabloid Battle For Your Eyeballs?

woodwar 6 Wood War! Who Wins Todays Grabby Tabloid Battle For Your Eyeballs?Daily News: “AUTOCRAT!” The word was first used to describe Napoleon more than 200 years ago, and my how it’s grown! But there is a pun here: President Obama is setting policy for American auto-makers that are benefiting from government bailout money. It’s actually pretty nice, except that the overall tone of the article (which begins with the line “Would you buy a new car from this man?” next to a picture of the President) hardly seems to take the White House to task for meddling in the private sector. The aim, rather, is to poke some fun at Mr. Obama for sounding a bit like a used-car salesman while making an announcement from the Grand Foyer of the White House backing warranties on American-made cars, even if companies like General Motors ultimately go belly-up. Still! The headline underlines the uneasy relationship the News, if a little less so than the Post, is having striking the right tone about the Obama administration’s economic policies. ‘AUTOCRAT,’ in that context, sounds like a clever pun better left to the Screamy Radio People who are calling all of this stuff Socialism than to a newspaper having fun with some Nader-Raideresque bailout provisions. Not all Republicans love a CEO, and not all Democrats like to be fleeced by them at tax-time.

Where is the populist-iconoclastic-demagogic tabloid press to turn in these troubled times? I know: the Sports Pages! A rather ambitious piece of analysis gets a front-page refer with the copy: “Meet the happy Yanks.” Here, roughly, is the argument of the piece, which is full of interviews with most of the stars in the Yankees’ lineup: Alex Rodriguez got a lot of attention for the Steroids scandal from the press, including the Daily News! This was good because it meant that sportswriters were not microanalyzing the rest of the team’s every pre-season muscle-tear, pitching style, etc. Then A-Rod went off to rehab his hip, and that was good too, because the team was less “distracted” by the spectacle. Damn Yankees, everything always goes their way!

The top of the page flags in smallish type the investigation into the apparent homicide of 26-year-old Caroline Wimmer. An autopsy is being performed today; though the young woman was found dead in her Staten Island bathroom with a hair-dryer cord around her neck, it’s not clear to the reporters that her death was caused by strangulation. It’s a sad story, and all of the required interviews are here: the parents, neighbors, a former coworker. It’s a sad truth that true crime always sells; it’s perhaps a less obvious truth that true crime is usually more likely to land the front page of the News when readers can identify with the victim than the front page of the Post, where a tantalizing detail is usually necessary to get it there.

The New York Post: Today is one of those rare days when not a single story has made the cover of both of the big city tabloids. So let’s take it from the top! “Madonna trading in human trinkets.” You may remember from yesterday, the Daily News fronted a story about the graceful Lourdes Ciccone-Leon walking around a Malawian village like Little Lord Fauntleroy inspecting the slums, the natives gawping at her finery, as she and Madonna contemplated adding a little one to the troubled, glamorous brood. Also yesterday you may remember the Post repurposed Gisele Bundchen’s Vanity Fair interview in which she promised to make a glue-sniffing Brazilian street urchin the object of some kind of Victorian rags-to-riches narrative. Today, Andrea Peyser weighs in on the whole gruesome spectacle. “THE baby monster must be stopped!” Ms. Peyser gamely fumes. She knows what we like: “Stuck in a midlife crisis, Madonna is hoping to soothe the pain of being 50, manless and well past her freshness-expiration date by taking home a Third World daughter to match the last baby she bought like a human trinket.” Me-ouch! OK, it gets better. The girl’s name is Mercy! Dickens couldn’t have done better. Of course if you read Ms. Peyser’s article, the offenses stack on one after the other; if you can be bothered to read anything else about it, let us know how fair it is. We’re content to enjoy this, not form an opinion of our own and move along, noting only that if Madonna had announced all this in a Vanity Fair interview in which she appeared mostly naked, she probably wouldn’t have to have put up with this.

Have you heard of the Countess de Lesseps? She is a character on The Real Housewives of New York, a reality show, and it seems her Count has been doing a little bit of relief work himself, taking up with a mistress who is perpetually described only as an “Ethiopian beauty.” You will find this article on the front page of the Post today! “Real NYC housewife in real divorce,” reads the disappointing copy. You read it all yesterday online but here goes: Luann de Lesseps marched over to Europe to get to the bottom of it, but it appears that divorce will be the result. She’s keeping that surgically-reconstructed chin up, though, and announces that she will always be … the Countess! That would be an important bit of public relations, since her book, Class With the Countess, comes out next month. Classy indeed!

‘BLEED US DRY’ screams what is purportedly the “main” news story on the front page of the Post today, though it appears at the bottom. Here, Post reporters have figured out exactly how a spate of new taxes in the new state budget will affect New Yorkers. Inside is a big graphic that gives a pretty good breakdown of who the Post thinks you are. There are two families, one with a combined income under $100,000 and one with a combined income just under $500,000. They look like pickup photography, and we always sort of wonder how these ersatz “families” feel about being used in a news graphic like this, though those television shots of people’s paunches walking down Broadway to accompany pieces about obesity in New York are obviously worse. But perhaps most remarkable is the fellow on the right of the inside graphic (click the photo at the top of this story for a slideshow that will take you to the graphic! OK, fine, just click here.) Because once the happy families have been fleeced by the State, the question becomes, what will happen to assholes? “The Single Guy” is drinking a can of Budweiser and smoking a cigar. He’s 30, has no kids and makes $100,000 a year. Pony up, buddy!

General observations: It’s either easier or harder to judge the front pages when they don’t share a single story, but today it’s easy. The Geyser of Peyser is almost always a winner, and given the News’ coverage yesterday, the placement of the story seems like a direct attack on the News’ news sensibilities. This is a war, and so that is a score. Luann de Lesseps is definitely a character for Post readers, but then the Staten Island murder victim is probably just as good a character for devotees of the News. We’re left with “AUTOCRAT” vs. “BLEED US DRY,” and both for copy and reader-relatability we have to choose the latter.

Winner:The New York Post, by a mile.