Today's Post is very proud of itself for breaking the story that Hillary Clinton's brother, Anthony, is behind on alimony and child-support payments. The story is full of innuendo that this news will affect her presidential race. It "won't be a welcome development for Hillary Clinton, coming as the too-close-to-call battle for the Democratic presidential nomination reaches a fevered pitch," the paper explains. But what we can't help but appreciate is that this story probably won't matter for Hillary. Sure, it's a good story – the ex-wife that Anthony Rodham is stiffing is the daughter of California Senator Barbara Boxer. That's gotta lend itself to some awkward Democratic holiday-party chatter. But stories like this (Mike Huckabee's Son Killed a Dog! Rudy's Daughter Is Voting for Obama! Obama's Real Estate Buddy Is Shady! Mitt Romney's Son Is a Little Gay-Seeming!) just don't seem to take hold this year.
There are a few things we can't wrap our heads around with this whole story about Blackwater shooting one of the New York Times' dogs in Baghdad. One of them is, why does the Times bureau have dogs? It wasn't someone's personal pet, according to the stories. It was a pet shared by the residents of the Times compound. Even a Huffington Post blogger who was bitten by one of them doesn't explain why they are there. Another question is this: On a day when Britney Spears's 16-year-old sister gets knocked up, who at the Post thought it would be a good idea to split the cover between the pregnancy story and a drawing of a doghouse with "Pooch Sulzberger" written on it? The Spears family is like the mother lode (ha, they're all mothers now) for the Post. Over the years, the paper's probably devoted more ink to hating them than to hating Al Gore. But somehow a cheap joke comparing Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger to a dead dog elbowed Jamie Lynn halfway off the cover. And finally, how come everybody who has written about it gets to use a "this time the deadly shooting in Baghdad was of a dog" joke? How is that, in any way, appropriate? Ha-ha! Murders are so common here, it's funny when something dies that isn't an American! That's a real home run.
New York Times in Iraq: Blackwater Shot Our Dog [Reuters]
Perhaps you, like us, read the Post's lengthy interview with fake fireman/sexual assailant Peter Braunstein this past weekend, in which he expresses regret about not killing his ex-girlfriend Jane Larkworthy and details a murder fantasy about New York reporter Vanessa Grigoriadis? And perhaps you, like us, asked yourself this: Isn't it kind of weird and creepy that the Post sent a reporter to spend three days at the Clinton Correctional Facility indulging the murderous woman-hating fantasies of an avowed psycho? And isn't it kind of strange and sick-making that they named the people he fantasizes about killing and furthermore put them in big puffy pull quotes? Wouldn't it be awful, if you were one of those people, to read someone's death fantasy about you in the paper?
And finally, of particular interest to us: Isn't this the paper that recently allowed a reporter to air his own weird rape fantasy about Grigoriadis? We decided to ignore that at the time, since it was such an obvious and egregious error in judgment. (One which others were happy to pointout rather forcefully.) Since there's no news hook to the most recent story (Braunstein is two years into his prison sentence which is scheduled to last another sixteen), we can only assume they're just exploiting the gruesome details for shock value. Which, well, duh, it's the Post; there's a reason people spend 25 cents on it. But at this point, we have to wonder if the Post's editors have spent so long playing up to their rough-hewn, hard-drinking image that they've lost all sense of perspective.
• Rupert Murdoch won't officially take over the Journal until tomorrow, but he's already dipped his tentacles deep into the paper. Rumor has it the Journal will dismiss two or three dozen people, to be replaced with Rupe's cronies, and then go on a hiring spree. Oh, and apparently Murdoch briefly considered dropping "Wall Street" from the title. Tells you something about where the paper's headed. [NYT]
• Sadly, Jane Pratt won't actually be starring in a reality-TV show titled American Ugly, as we reported yesterday. C'mon Jane, don't you love us? [Mixed Media/Portfolio]
• New York Post "Metro" editor Dan Colarusso, whom Col Allan praised as "a quintessential New Yorker," walked out of the newsroom and quit yesterday. No word on why, but seems pretty quintessential to us. [Runnin' Scared/VV]
• The newest Citigroup rumors suggest a "tag team at the top": Financial whiz Vikram Pandit will take over as CEO, while the more socially astute Robert Willumstad handles chairman duties. We're just not sure "tag team" means the same thing for us as it does the Times? [DealBook/NYT]
• Morgan Stanley issued a full recession alert for the U.S. economy today in the oh-so-subtly titled "Recession Coming." Meanwhile, a recent Journal poll of top economists puts the risk of recession at 38 percent. [Telegraph, WSJ]
• Thirtysomething Blackstone real-estate guru Jonathan Gray is getting rather comfortable in the top tier of the young establishment. [DealBook/NYT]
Yesterday's speech by Mitt Romney on religion was big news. Forced, like JFK was decades ago, to explain his religion to voters in order to dispel any alienation they might feel, the Mormon candidate made a heartfelt speech mimicking the one made by his Catholic predecessor in 1960. In Texas, he delivered "Faith in America," a sermon he says he wrote himself. Naturally, when we opened today's papers, we were interested to see New York's take on a speech that was so plainly not directed at voters here. The reviews were nearly unanimously positive. "Romney created the most presidential 20 minutes of his campaign," reported Tom DeFrank in the Daily News. "He demonstrated the courage of controversial convictions by refusing to equivocate about his beliefs. Simultaneously, he struck a Kennedy-esque chord."
Today's Post is the only paper reporting what's really going on in the perilous personal life of one of New York's living landmarks. The tabloid details the trauma and despair filling the life of Trouble, Leona Helmsley's dog (who inherited $12 million after her owner died earlier this year). In an investigative coup, the Post learned (from watching CBS News) that the dog has received kidnapping and death threats. In a bold cover story we learn how the brave actions of just a few people swept her out of harm's way in a set of brilliant — but dangerous! — last-minute maneuvers. This past month, Trouble's alert security detail smuggled the four-and-a-half-pound dog out of Connecticut, where she had been living, and delivered her to Sarasota, Florida, where she is "wintering." "We had to change her name, even to take her on the aircraft," said John Codey, the Helmsley executive in charge of Trouble's trust fund. "We called her Bauble instead of Trouble." Codey is the financier who helps the dog, who had been living in a 28-room mansion, spend roughly $300,000 a year from her inheritance. Now, everybody, get out your typewriters and peck out an angry letter to every other newspaper in the city. This is the type of coverage that sets the Post apart.
IN-DOG-NITO IN FLORIDA [NYP]
For the morning after the New York State elections, how about a nice little comparison of headlines and ledes?
From today's New York Times:
New York Democrats Say License Issue Had Little Effect
Democrats declared yesterday that Gov. Eliot Spitzer’s plan to give driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants had not proved to be the electoral boon Republicans had hoped for in local elections
Well, well, well. After the much-hyped circulation surge of the New York Post last year, which propelled the scrappy tabloid over the head of the Daily News, the News has clawed its way back to supremacy. The Audit Bureau of Circulation reports that the more liberal tabloid is once again the fifth largest newspaper in the country (Also, the Times circ took a hit, but that’s not fun, just depressing). The annoying 25-cent tabloid switcheroo earlier this year may have had something to do with the reversed numbers, or the fact that the News has really been ramping up its celebrity coverage (Full disclosure, Daily Intel editor Chris Rovzar was formerly employed by the News). Obviously, that paper will have some tepidly triumphant cover page tomorrow, but what we really can't wait to see is how the genius headline writers at the Post will handle it. Will they go with, PRIDE COMES BEFORE THE FALL? Or, DAILY SNOOZE SLEEPWALKS TO SUCCESS? When they surged ahead last year, they ran the banner hed: THANK YOU NEW YORK. Maybe this time they'lll go with: FUCK YOU NEW YORK. Probably they'll choose something optimistic, like POST CIRCULATION STILL GROWING. But what we'd really like to see is a good old, HEY 'NEWS': SUCK IT.
Many Top Papers Take Big Hits [Editor & Publisher]
We have to hand it to the Post and the Daily News. They've treated the story of the serial rapist who preys outside of the trendy Box nightclub with relative sincerity. Not even a "BEHIND THE VELVET RAPES" headline. It's probably because this is the intersection of the two kinds of stories the tabloids do best: serious, grim-faced crime reporting, and salacious celebrity fixation. It turns out that a man posing as a livery driver abducted and sexually assaulted two women (one in September and one on Friday) from in front of the club at 3 a.m., while partygoers stumbled in and out. The club is popular with celebrities, who perform on its tiny stage and line its cozy banquettes nearly every night. In both cases the stalker stole money using the women's ATM cards, raped them, and then dumped them in an outer borough. Luckily, both women gave descriptions of the man and there were witnesses who saw the cars he was driving, so police have several leads.*
Hunt on for Lower E. Side Club Rapist [NYDN]
Fiend Rapes 2 Club Gals [NYP]
*If the tabs aren't going to crack a joke, we aren't touching it with a ten-foot pole.
Did you hear that the Red Sox won the World Series last night? No? Was it because everybody was talking about how A-Rod went free agent, as was announced during the game? After Rodriguez's shameless agent, Scott Boras, upstaged game four by releasing the news during the early innings, it was all anyone could yammer about. Sure, the Series had been a little boring, and yeah, A-Rod has no reason to love the Sox, but couldn't they have at least thrown the Rockies a bone? A young team with a thrilling (if disappointing) moment in the spotlight, having their last moments in the sun robbed by a man who is just hoping to make more money next year. Kinda sucks, huh? Anyway, if you didn't hear about the Red Sox last night on TV or radio, surely you saw the news in this morning's paper. Oh, you didn't? You must read the Daily News or the Post, where the Series news was relegated to tiny text ribbons on the front and back pages, dwarfed by coverage of the Yankees. Well, just FYI: The Red Sox won the World Series. Not that you wanted to know. You're a New Yorker, after all.
A-Rod Putting Himself Above the Game [ESPN]
Today's coverage of Robert "the Preppy Killer" Chambers's drug bust came with several moral lessons — courtesy of the cops and neighbors who helped bring Chambers down. For your edification, some pearls of wisdom:
• With enough cocaine, one can "levitate to Central Park." —A police source
• Drug dealers "are like vampires. They only come out at night." —An anonymous neighbor
• With crack, women take a harder whack. "He's still a handsome guy. You know, tall, blue eyes. But [also accused girlfriend Shawn Kovell] is a different thing. She was beautiful once, but now she looks about 89 and weighs about 45 pounds." —Another anonymous neighbor
• People never learn. "The guy had a second chance and he blew it. He's like OJ." —An anonymous building employee
• "Three strikes, you're out." —Ellen Levin, mother of Jennifer Levin, the girl Chambers killed in 1986
Tabloid sources. The Zen masters of our time.
Preppy Killer Chambers Busted [NYP]
Preppy Killer in Coke Bust [NYDN]
The Observer reports today that News Corp. has thrown its name into the hat to compete for the right to build over the Hudson Yards. That pits them against Condé Nast, which is also fighting for the use of the space to build an office tower. As Gawker notes, that will be a battle royale. But we think it will be nothing compared to the endless skirmishes that will go on if News Corp. (and developer Related) move in there and all Post workers are faced with commuting to work with all of the Daily News employees who work right next door. Mort Zuckerman's Boston Properties owns the only private building that already straddles the Hudson Yards, on Tenth Avenue between 31st and 33rd. It houses the News, the Associated Press, and Channel 13. If News Corp. develops the rest of the Hudson Yards, they'll sit right across Tenth Avenue. Since Murdoch is fond of putting up hilariously competitive billboards (this month's giant "Six Appeal" advertisement shills for the tab's Page Six Magazine) in that terrain for News employees to enjoy on their walk to work, we can only imagine how things will escalate. Though Zuckerman employees can look forward to one thing that's guaranteed, at least: The neighborhood would finally get a decent bar!
Murdoch and Newhouse Battle for West Side [NYO]
As we never would have guessed, the Columbia noose scandal has blown up in the pages of the tabloids. It's worth the ink, but we couldn't help but notice the different ways the New York papers have handled the role of Madonna Constantine's rival professor, Suniya Luthar (who is Indian). The two had some professional scuffles that resulted in Constantine filing a defamation suit against Luthar in May. The Daily Newsmentions her name in its main article, making it clear, though, that Luthar was "not a suspect" in a police investigation of the noose incident. The Timeswas even vaguer, protecting Luthar from the ire of readers by leaving her name out of its coverage entirely. Since police say there are no "persons of interest" in the case so far, both papers seem to reason, why drag Luthar's name through the mud? For salaciousness' sake, of course! That's why the Post devoted an entire article to the Luthar-Constantine spat, implied that Luthar was being questioned suspiciously in the headline, and ran a giant picture of her across page six of the paper. We love Post logic: Why only have one person's life be traumatized when you could have two?
Sleuths Seek to Question Rival in 'Smear' [NYP]
It seems like “the Clintons surround themselves with shady businessmen” is now an established, GOP-approved meme of this campaign season; unable to find any scandal in Hillary’s past they hadn’t beaten to death fifteen years ago, the right-wingers are officially going after her inner circle. As John Heilemann wrote in the magazine, the recent weeks reminded us, “in the form of the metastasizing scandal around Norman Hsu of the dark side of the first Clinton era.” This is exactly the memory the opposing camp is hoping to keep going. And although none quite seem to have stuck, at least three other unsavory associations have popped up in one week. Adviser Mark Penn has a Blackwater tie! Bill’s buddy Richard Mays is in a cult! But there’s one question: Who is at the center of all this?
When my editors and I were finishing up last week's story about Alex Rodriguez's (and agent Scott Boras's) hold on Yankees Nation, our main concern was whether we spelled "vituperate" correctly (we had) and whether anyone had taken a photo of Yankees COO Lonn Trost in the last ten years (apparently not). The piece was meant to capture a unique snapshot in the history of a team that has owned this town for a decade, a once-dictatorial enterprise facing a pivotal moment and held hostage by the best baseball player on the planet and his evil-genius agent. I didn't expect much fuss.
But when the Post printed an excerpt from the story in its Sunday editions about discussions Boras had with a group trying to buy the Chicago Cubs, saying Boras had talked about A-Rod potentially owning a piece of the team after his career ended, I was sucked into the all-too-familiar sports-news-cycle vortex.