First, a little bit of business! You can now find a page of nothing but Wood War on the Observer web site! Bookmark this special Wood War Page link.
New York Post: The first great big summer blockbuster is here! And though this morning is a little springy for it, Lou Lumenick was getting pretty hot yesterday as he wrote his review. The Post gives the movie a banner over the top of its front page this morning heralding its review. There’s a strange choice here, one that is special to tabloids: The font they’ve chosen for the headline mimics the font used on posters advertising the movie. It isn’t nefarious—but we wonder whether the designers ever debate whether there is anything compromising about abandoning the newspaper’s own traditional fonts for a font that might make the banner look like an actual advertisement for the movie. The headline reads: “WOLVERINE HOWLS,” and then a red box directs readers to the review in the Pulse section. Wait a minute: “howls?” I mean, we get it: It’s the cry of a dog or wolf. But it is also, according to the Random House dictionary, “a loud, scornful laugh or yell,” or even “something that causes a laugh or a scornful yell, as a joke or funny or embarrassing situation.” As in a howler. Perhaps it’s a sign of how powerful the use of the movie-promotion font that one does not question that Mr. Lumenick’s review is a good one: After all, only really good or really bad reviews for big, big movies get front-page treatment.
One of the great things about the Post is their willingness to turn the letter “S” into a dollar sign, to convey that a story is about pricing without having to waste words on the concept in the main headline. But it takes work! The slabby font the Post uses normally is so bold that a line through the “S” would actually fill all of the interior space of the letter, making it an illegible blob; you can actually see a slight color differentiation where the designers added little squares to the top and bottom of the letter to convey the dollar symbol without messing it up, if you look at the digital image they send over to the fantastic “Today’s Front Pages” compendium over at newseum.org (on which Wood War depends every morning!). Sorry, nerddom! The text says “YANKEE CLIPPER$” (we still can’t help reading these dollar signs with a lisp for some reason, somewhat reducing the effectiveness, but I think we’re alone in that). “Bombers slash ticket prices” is the subhead, and out of the lower left-hand corner a pair of hands is holding out four fanned-out Yankee Stadium tickets. What is the story they’re selling here? Actually they picked it up from the Associated Press newswire: “Team officials acknowledged they struck out by charging astronomical prices for the best seats in the brand-new Stadium — so yesterday, they slashed those prices in half, and offered discounts and extra tickets to fans who had already bought the field-level seats.” In other words, it’s not the cheap seats that are getting cheaper, but those astronomically priced field-level seats that most of you weren’t buying anyway. It’s a big story as news, since these kinds of insane ticket prices are the economic motors of the New Stadium Philosophy, in which your seat up in the nosebleed sections is subsidized by heavies plunking down thousands of dollars to sit right on top of the playing field. But the story sticks to the facts, and besides an acknowledgement that the pricing of some of the best seats had been too aggressive, there isn’t too much analysis of whether this means the stadium is going to be a flop.
Sarah Jessica Parker has birthed twins! There’s a cute picture of her with husband Matthew Broderick, who is looking a bit Edwin Droodish these days (for a role), but their kids are probably going to be pretty well taken care of. “Twins for Sarah Jessica.” No difficulty here.
New York Daily News: The Swine Flu! The Swine Flu! “DREAD OF THE CLASS,” reads the main headline on today’s News, and in fact it does seem like schools are the focus of the initial scare over swine flu. Because schools are germ festivals! Two bullet points support the main hed: “Flu spreading like wildfire through the city, ” and “Officials stress it’s so far just a mild illness.” Hmm. Does the second point somewhat vitiate the seriousness of the first? But while the swine-flu story dominates the page typographically, the Yankees get the top of the page. “STADIUM ON SALE” reads the print. For some reason, the News decided to be tricksy with type treatment at the top of the page today, too! We can’t tell why. It’s yellow faux-stencil, military style, with a line-box around it that is probably supposed to make it look like a stamp. So, like, did the military decide to sell Yankee Stadium? Subhead to the rescue! “Now it’ll only cost you $1,250 to sit in top seats!” By which they don’t mean the seats highest up in the stadium but the best seats in the stadium. So the copy is meant to be incredulous that even after a price chop, ticket prices for premium seats at the stadium are still out of reach to YOU, OUR READER. They are statistically probably correct. But here’s another one of those moments where the News brand of populism, which is almost always about money, trumps the Post brand of populism, which almost always contrasts middle-class mores to those of the decadent upper classes.
Speaking of populism! The News runs a little banner at the bottom of the page advertising “FREE CITIZENSHIP ADVICE.” Those Zoni Language School–type advertisers must be getting aggressive! No, seriously, thanks News, sometimes it’s good to be good on the front page.
General observations: The News is usually inclined to gloat a little more over difficulties at Yankee Stadium; we’re wary of corporate conspiracy theories and Rupert Murdoch’s friendship with George Steinbrenner was hardly likely to become an explicit factor in the Post newsroom’s handling of the front-page Yankees story. But still, the newspaper is always a reflection of its ownership on some level, and the care with which Post headlines are written about the Yankees, the Yankees’ business situation in particular, is at least notable. There is neither outrage at the astronomical prices, nor schadenfreude about the Yankees having had to slash them, nor continued outrage at the fact that the prices for the best seats remain outlandish. But that must be partly because it’s a part of the Post‘s appeal that it has this ambiguous relationship with its readers’ finances. You are interested in rich people, and you don’t need to constantly be target-marketed for your middle-classdom! On the other hand, that might normally seem like a reason for the Post to play up the real financial angle on the front page. “Rich Crazies Get a Break!” is the sentiment on this theory. Anyway, “YANKEE CLIPPER$” is a decent headline, though it’s not clear why cutting prices makes you like a boat. Still, “STADIUM ON SALE” is just boring. On the other hand, actually printing a dollar amount on the front page is good work: Numbers, like names, make news! This is a tough one. Let’s move on to Swine Flu versus Howl. We hate everything about the Wolverine promotion at the top of the page, and also Hugh Jackman in this picture kind of looks like he’s jumping out of the pool because he realized the water was full of slimy stuff and he is trying to get out of there as quick as he can. It’s a little absurd. Also, Hugh Jackman in costume may get them a relatable figure on the top of the page, but not as relatable as the Derek Jeter that is fronting the News this morning. “DREAD OF THE CLASS” is sort of a nonstarter, except that everybody wants to read about swine flu every day. They could have written “GET YOUR DAILY SWINE FLU UPDATE HERE” and it would get readers. We just wish the Post had done a swine flu story this morning so that we’d have gotten a nice pun to talk about. And, good work for the immigrants, Daily News, but … huh? We guess the SJP news beats that, but we’re getting bored with celebrity children and don’t have the energy to think about them anymore.
Winner: Daily News.