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

The New York Post: Gloria Vanderbilt is 85 years old, and she has written an erotic novel that is giving

The New York Post: Gloria Vanderbilt is 85 years old, and she has written an erotic novel that is giving Post columnist Andrea Peyser the vapors. “Gloria is a dirty old lady,” the display reads over a picture of Ms. Vanderbilt from her glory days as a designer. That it’s a Ms. Peyser affair inside isn’t flagged, so front-page readers won’t feel the disappointment when they get to the story and find that Ms. Peyser doesn’t have much to say about the book except that it is very, very dirty. Somehow we think that the image of Ms. Peyser curling up at home in Brooklyn with a smutty novel which she points out has a small enough page-count that it can be read with one hand was a bit much even for the Post‘s front page. We also wonder a little bit whether Gloria Vanderbilt is big enough game for the Post Monday morning wood (sorry!); but the page redeems itself with a giant picture of Tom Brady and Gisele Bundchen at their wedding (they are already married, but were renewing their vows at a big party in Costa Rica on Saturday). “SHOTGUN WEDDING” indeed: In a nonexclusive story, the Post describes vividly the claims of two photographers whose car was attacked with a shotgun as they tried to snap photos of the event from a neighboring property. Tom and Gisele have been a hot topic for the Post, their investment in the scandal-sheet relationship extending to a deal to release parts of the May Vanity Fair profile of the Brazilian supermodel last week. So when big tabloid news like this comes along, they’ve got to front it to keep a marker on it; it’s pretty damn good.

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Today is the season opener for both the Yankees and the Mets; it’s big enough news to crawl around the bend from the back sports page to the front, and the Post highlights a story about the pressure on C.C. Sabathia to make good on his enormous contract with the Yankees: “CC earns his stripes,” reads the text over a background of Yankee pinstripes. But the refer only tells readers to “SEE SPORTS,” which we think is just a way to ask the reader to flip the paper over and take a look at its backside. After all, today they might be able to grab some nonregular sports readers. And who knows, maybe Mr. Sabathia can be made into a tabloid star the likes of A-Rod or Derek Jeter? Umm, probably not.

Daily News: Today the News gratifies us by actually playing Wood War with the Post: this at least is how we take their front-page treatment for Liz Benjamin’s story out of Albany this morning. “Top Dems’ ultimatum on Gov. Paterson: SHAPE UP OR ELSE!” reads the copy. Beneath: “Elizabeth Benjamin exclusive.” The news here is fairly straightforward: “‘Top New York Democrats have privately set a deadline of early November for Gov. Paterson to turn his poll numbers around or they’ll urge him not to run next year,'” the story leads. “‘The idea is to let him get through the budget and get through the summer,’ said a prominent Democratic donor who sees the fall elections as the cutoff for Paterson’s improvement.” But who are these “Top Dems?” Not completely clear. And what form did this deadline take? Was there a letter? A meeting? We’re sure Ms. Benjamin knows the answer, but the reader won’t if he turns to page three to find the story. Nevertheless, it’s a big coup: This is the kind of thing the Post‘s Fred Dicker is supposed to have in the bag. And more importantly, Ms. Benjamin, whom we’ve liked a lot better than Mr. Dicker since she started this gig to begin with, is getting the star treatment. It’s a direct provocation of the Post, and here the News has the goods to back it up. What’s the rest of the News front page? Sports! “PLAY BALL” reads the top headline, in yellow on a red background. This sure stands out, and as we pointed out before, it’s a good day to have some sports on the front. But sports and politics both skew to Mars—where is Venus on this front page? The lower left is a refer to a story about President Obama’s condemnation of North Korea’s rocket launch, which is only sexy by a weird sort of analogy. Something on this page had to give. The News had the Gisele and Tom story, too; and plenty else besides inside the paper to give this page some balance. Maybe today wasn’t a good day to devote half the wood to sports after all?

General observations: We have to give some points to the News today for taking aim at a Post stronghold. But they were wrong about the season opener treatment on Page One: the back page could have sold sports with a tiny refer on the front, giving room for something besides sports and politics on the page. What might it have been? Well Gloria Vanderbilt would have been a bit of a stretch; the Post isn’t selling Ms. Peyser with the piece, which they needed to do to make an 85-year-old’s erotic ramblings a selling point. That Sabathia refer on the front page does nobody any good at all. But finally, that giant “SHOTGUN WEDDING” headline is a grabber, and nothing on the News front page can match it. It’s a weird tale to be sure: will there be any fallout whatsoever for actually shooting at these photographers? It’s pretty bad news for Tom and Gisele. We want to read more, and so “SHOTGUN WEDDING” wins the day.

Winner: The New York Post

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