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

The New York Post: The Archdiocese of New York has a new Archbishop! Wisconsin native Timothy Dolan yesterday did the ceremonial knock on the door of St. Patrick’s Cathedral, a ritual that normally attends the arrival of a new archbishop but that hasn’t happened in New York before because until the retirement of Edward Cardinal Egan, no sitting Archbishop of New York has left the office alive. “Heaven sent” is the headline, and it’s a bit confusing: did we need a rescue from heaven to deliver us from Egan? Not according to the editorial appearing in today’s Post, which may just be a good-natured formality but which nevertheless praises the Cardinal (who will retain his Red Hat, since it’s a dignity separate from that of the office of Archbishop) for, among other things, stabilizing the Archdiocese’s finances in part with a controversial program that closed and consolidated beloved neighborhood parishes and schools.

Writing about Archdiocesan affairs would seem tricky on the surface, since the Archdiocese includes only three of New York City’s five boroughs: Staten Island, Manhattan and the Bronx. Given the tabloids’ large daily readership in Queens, Brooklyn and on Long Island (which are two separate dioceses) the investiture of a new Archbishop would seem to only effect a portion of the city populace. But as a public figure, the Archbishop for New York has always been the spiritual leader of the region; and despite New York’s status as the second-largest flock of Catholics in the country (behind Los Angeles), St. Patrick’s Cathedral is recognized as the national pulpit much the same way The New York Times is sort of the lead newspaper for America.

It’s been one of the quietest transitions at St. Pat’s, not least of all because there has been no massive funeral for the outgoing Archbishop. And, popular or unpopular, Cardinal Egan’s mission was largely administrative and not pastoral, so he never registered with the public on the level of a John Cardinal O’Connor, who led the New York church through the turbulent politics of the dawn of the AIDS era and the city’s economic downturn. So we expect some readers will be surprised at the wall-to-wall coverage in the tabloids this morning. Still, it’s the right cover topic for today; it’s the unavoidable, predictable tabloid wood for the day, even if it is Tax Day, too.

Daily News: But to say that Archbishop Dolan is the right cover personality for today’s paper is not to say that any way you handle him is as good as any other. The Daily News has what passes for “the goods” today, and is able to advertise it: under an “Exclusive” banner (what can you get exclusively out of a public ceremony welcoming a public official?) the News writes: “Archbishop Dolan tells News readers he can’t wait to be a New Yorker,” and the main headline reads: ‘I’M GOING TO BE HAPPY.’

They’re talking about an Op Ed contributed to the paper by the new Archbishop. The Op Ed itself is hardly revelatory: it’s a fairly anodyne, if well-put-together and impressively humble introductory note. But that they have it exclusively and can identify their readers as the target of Dolan’s opening felicitations is something. And if the paper is forced to find a “point” in the Op Ed that they can use to put a spin on the wood (“I’m going to be happy”? Really?) at least they’ve got a spin.

General observations: Today is easy. The same story on both covers, but different treatments: the Post‘s generic, the News’ specific to the goods they’re bringing the reader, even if those goods aren’t inherently that interesting. The News also gives us a closer crop on the new Archbishop’s face. Writing in his column in today’s paper, columnist Michael Daly describes the expression on the Archbishop’s face as he entered the Cathedral yesterday: “Dolan’s eyes shined with the excitement you might see in a baseball player joining the Yankees or a singer landing a part in a Broadway musical.” You can really see it in the News photo this morning.

Winner: Daily News.

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