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

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Apologies for the lateness of this morning’s posting; other editorial duties got in the way. In general you can expect this post to appear before 8 a.m. in the future, it’s a solemn promise. OK, to war!

New York Post: According to a popular urban myth, if you look very closely during one scene of the movie Three Men and a Baby, you can see peeking from between some curtains the ghost of a boy who had died in the house where that movie was filmed. It isn’t true, of course. But if you look very closely at the front page of this morning’s New York tabloids, you will see an image of Queen Elizabeth standing between Barack and Michelle Obama. That is true. When we speculated yesterday whether the New York Post would front an image of the Obamas meeting with the Queen at Buckingham Palace, we must have been on the pipe: there really is no way to justify putting anything else there today, and the Post complies. But how cheerfully? It’s pretty clear this picture would not have passed muster as a grabby cover image if the subject were not the Presidential Couple’s meeting with the Queen Mother.* We imagine these photo shoots are arranged by Palace staff and not by professional photographers the working press. Did the wily and notoriously press-averse little sovereign intentionally dress to blend in, chameleonlike, with her creamy flesh-toned décor? Well, at any rate, this couldn’t have been much of a Page One meeting: The fix was in. The question is, how to play it with the display type? And do we take over the whole page with the story? The answer to the latter, in the case of the New York Post, was “YES!” As for the former, we got “ROYALTY! And Mrs. Windsor, too.” Ha! See, as with Tina Brown’s reinvention of Vanity Fair, in which the Reagans’ portrait done up like a royal family oil announced her mission to find the American equivalent of the Royals she knew so well from her time in England, the New York Post declares its complex independence from its Fleet Street ancestors by protesting too much. We are going to work through this theme of the crypto-Britishness of the Post in future installments; but we’ll leave it there for today. For now we’ll just say, who needs divorced countesses when you’ve got the Queen!

Daily News: “A big hello from Barackingham Palace.” Hmm. That picture is not a big hello. It’s more of a, “Please, take this picture quickly, I’ve some watercress sandwiches to nibble.” And Barackingham Palace? Again, the sentiment has not found its perfect instrument of expression, which would be the simplest: “ROYALTY! And Mrs. Windsor, too.” Besides that, we have the tactical decision by the News this morning not to take over the whole page with the Buckingham Palace story. We think it’s the right one. And we are glad as hell that “State of Shame” is back on the front page. But why “WHAT A CIRCUS!” Could we find no display copy that conveyed the chaos of Albany as yet another M.T.A. deal founders that contained in it some inherent reference to the M.T.A. or the state government itself? We are almost willing to believe that the Circus reference is meant to recall “three rings,” as in the  three powerbrokers in Albany on whom the responsibility for reaching a deal falls: David Paterson, Sheldon Silver, Malcolm Smith. If so it’s clever! But, again, too abstract, and too clever. Some suggestions for something more direct might be: STATE OF SHAME! We’re pretty proud of IN A HOLE. What about OFF THE RAILS? DERAILED? WHAT A WRECK? Or an imperative: FIX IT, NOW! We suppose METROTARDS is offensive. It still would have been better.

General observations:
Once again, the pictures from the same shoot are slightly different, taken perhaps a second apart. Is there a winner in the photo choice? Yes, actually, though it’s not worth many points: in the Daily News photo, Michelle Obama’s lips are pursed as though she is suppressing a belch or a belly-laugh; also one of her eyes looks a bit like it’s on the fritz. Barack looks a little better in this one though. Still, the Post photo was probably the right choice from this limting shoot. The News, knowing that this picture wasn’t very grabby, added a second story to its wood; but it bungled the headline on the main one badly, and did worse with the second story.

Winner: New York Post.

Tune in tomorrow, when Wood War addresses the procedural question: Why does the Post win this thing every day?

* Over on politickerny.com, a commenter (whose handle is “Aeslehc/ The Anglophile,” points out correctly that “[the] title of Queen Mother is reserved for the mother of the reigning sovereign. It would have been difficult for the Obama’s to have met Elizabeth’s mother yesterday as she died in March of 2002.” We stand corrected! And somewhere in the murky corridors of our WLIW-watching history, we believe this was once known. We plead haste and promise to do better. Thanks for reading, Chelsea-backwards!

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