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

owoodwar Wood War: Who Wins Todays Grabby Tabloid Battle For Your Eyeballs?Daily News: Wow. It looks like the News got its hands on Sports Illustrated reporter Selena Roberts’ long anticipated book about Alex Rodriguez. You’ll remember Ms. Roberts as the reporter who broke the story in February that a few years ago, in an anonymous, voluntary test, Mr. Rodriguez had “tested positive for two anabolic steroids” during his 2003 season playing for the Texas Rangers, according to four independent sources. “This is the biggest news break since I arrived in 2002,” Sports Illustrated editor Terry McDonnell told our own John Koblin back then. Everyone knew that the reporting resulted in part from the writer’s work on a book about Mr. Rodriguez due to hit shelves in May, and back then, Ms. Roberts’ editor on the book, David Hirshey, assured us: “Not everything that Selena has on A-Rod’s steroid participation has come out yet.”

 

Apparently not. The book, which isn’t due on shelves until May 12, apparently advances the story of Mr. Rodriguez’s steroid use beyond his time with the Rangers—both as a teenager trying to make the grade and, more recently, during his tenure with the Yankees. Decency apparently forbids the News from using certain words, so the book’s revelation that fellow Yankees referred to him as “B—- T—,” for those who can’t guess, is actually spelled out in the book as Bitch Tits, and refers to the condition of gynecomastia, or rounding of the male chest, that is a side effect of steroid use. Of course, none of the reporting in this piece comes from the News except for having obtained and read a copy of the book: Everything else simply repeats the reporting found there. But the book isn’t out yet, and so it’s a very, very clean break for the News. “A-ROD BOOK BOMBSHELL,” reads the main headline. And then: “Slugger may have taken HGH while playing for the Yankees,” and, “Hints he took steroids as early as high school days.” The paper actually fills a lot of space with that text and gives us a nice close-up of A-Rod’s face, looking a little bit like the cat with the canary. Others in our party here at The Observer will work on figuring out how the News got the book, but we are betting it’s unlikely that it was leaked to them. Which means the likely heavily guarded book wasn’t easy to get ahold of.

There’s this other one-day tabloid story that is just pure gold! Sorry. “GOLDEN GIRL” reads the headline at the bottom of the page. “Cops: She stole 12M of the stuff ounce by ounce over six years.” We’ll talk more about this story for a minute. For now, all you have to remember is that for a story about a woman who works at a jeweler who stole millions of dollars worth of gold from her office, “GOLDEN GIRL” is a pretty clear choice for a headline. We suspect that few people are like us, and saw the head and thought the paper was chasing some kind of obscure post-mortem scandal about the recently deceased Bea Arthur, whom we still remember lovingly for her version of “Barbara Song” on the original cast album of The Threepenny Opera performed in the 1950s at the Theatre de Lys.

New York Post: The top of the page is reserved for Andrea Peyser’s account of the courtroom drama over erstwhile supermodel and television personality Tyra Banks’ confrontation with her alleged “stalker.” Go, Andrea: “In crisp, camera-ready diction, the ‘Top Model’ stunner told a Manhattan judge, ‘I don’t fear, like, for my life. I fear my safety.'” So Ms. Peyser does have a heart! Because that sentence is not camera-ready at all. Here is a list of some terms that appear in the Peyser column: “sashayed,” “stilettos,” “sassily.” But the column actually raises an interesting point: Ms. Banks is confronting a stalker who, she alleges, has threatened her producer’s life in his quest to gain access to her, access he actually came closest to achieving in the courtroom. “He’s created enough new fantasies to last a lifetime,” Ms. Peyser writes of the accused, who was frequently denied admission to the live audience of Ms. Banks’ show because he had gotten himself on a “Do Not Admit” list, and who will get 90 days on a misdemeanor charge if found guilty of the crime, which Ms. Banks has testified upended her life. “He’s won.”

“GOLD DIGGER!” One of the reasons we love this story of Teresa Tambunting, the 50-year-old Scarsdale woman who, ounce by ounce, over six years, smuggled gold out of the Queens jewelry manufacturers where she worked, is that it’s the kind of massive crime that can be performed by just about anyone who keeps his head on his shoulders. The titillation in a story like this is that you, too—provided you don’t get too greedy or too sloppy—could probably pull off a slow-motion, big-money heist like this. Of course you never read about these things until the person is caught, so the stories you hear are almost always about the poor louts who get caught. But this even is not enough to quite dispel the fantasy. In the online version of the Post story, commenter White Devil writes: “I wish someone would put me in charge of their gold, I really do. I`d be chillin on the beach in Rio !!!” and amstaffbru writes, “That was a good run, nobody got hurt.” We like the headline “Gold Digger” because it plays off the line the district attorney was playing for the press, calling Ms. Tambunting’s a “virtual mining operation.”

Hey, there’s Yankees stuff on the front page of the Post today, too! “Swish, Yanks tame Tigers,” reads the copy under a picture of Joba Chamberlain clapping. In light of the News’ break, though, the little refer just seems sad.

General observations: Remember what we said about density and the News yesterday? Today’s cover is dense. Maybe that’s because they completely swept the floor with the Post on the story merits. We’ll cycle through the other elements of the two pages: The Peyser column was nice and getting Tyra Banks on the cover will probably move some copies. And “GOLD DIGGER” beats “GOLDEN GIRL” for a headline about Ms. Tambunting’s exploits. But there is little question of what the undecided will want to pick up this morning from looking at the covers: this morning, the News has the dirt.

Winner: Daily News

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