Thursday, January 27, 2011

Kidnap 'Miracle' FOUND !!!

Today's tabloids, Jan. 20, 2011.
7:58 am Jan. 20, 2011 | Tweet this article
Each day, the New York tabloids vie to sell readers at the newsstands on outrageous headlines, dramatic photography, and, occasionally, great reporting. Who is today's winner?

The New York Post: "FOUND!" is the big wood today, in knockout, black-outlined type over a bronze-tinted family photo depicting the reunion of Carlina White with her biological parents at least 23 years (there's a reason to put it that way—keep reading) after her kidnapping from Harlem Hospital.

 They're all facing forward, Mom's arms around Carlina, Dad's arms around both of them.

 It's a sweet photo (even though Mom and Dad are divorced some time now and each has a new family since they lost their daughter). "Child kidnapped from city hosp. 23 years ago" reads the dek, which since it's geographically north of that main hed makes sense in context. There's some lead text in a white box—with a red stripe across the top that says "EXCLUSIVE." The leader text refers to "this exclusive Post photo," but usually when it's only a photo exclusive you get a red snipe across one of the top corners that says "PHOTO EXCLUSIVE." The treatment we see today should mean the story is an exclusive, which will make anyone wonder who encounters the Post at the newsstand, sitting next to the Daily News.

Daily News: Of course the top of the page is some Jets stuff. Really, how many overextended visual metaphors can we expend between now and Sunday's Steelers game? The News advertises a big inside poster—they are really attached to this Bar Mitzvah caricaturist style of illustration over there! Santonio Holmes shares a last name with a certain famous turn-of-the-century sleuth, you see, so he's pictured in a plaid deerstalker cap with a matching waistcoat styled with his jersey number across the shoulders, his Jets uniform underneath, holding a pipe in one hand and a magnifying glass in the other that's pointed out toward the stands but nevertheless somehow has the Steelers logo in it. "GO JETS! IT'S ELEMENTARY!" reads some translucent white text over the lower-left corner. This poster is thumnailed at an angle across a lurid green box advertising "FREE JETS POSTER," with the word "FREE" in pale yellow and the rest in knockout white. The paper's flag has been adjusted: "DAILY NEWS" is in the same green as the box, and instead of the stylized old-fashioned box camera in the middle (the paper was once called "NEW YORK'S PICTURE NEWSPAPER") there's a Jets logo (in a shade of green more tasteful than on the rest of the page, and showing the slight difference between the shade used by the News and the actual Jets Green). And in red, beneath, where it usually says "NEW YORK'S HOMETOWN NEWSPAPER," it reads instead "NEW YORK'S GO-JETS NEWSPAPER." All of this cheerleading is par for the course and even kind of cute! But it's an ugly set-up just the same.

But the editorial weight of the page is with the bottom half, where the story of Carlina White appears. A postage-stamp hedcut photo of White is set inline with text reading "KIDNAP MIRACLE." The dek: "Snatched from Harlem Hospital in '87, she returns safely to loved ones 23 years later."

Observations: So does the Post have an exclusive? It's hard to tell.

 You could call an interview with a story subject an exclusive as long as nobody else was on the call—but you probably wouldn't go great guns proclaiming that if you didn't get anything out of the interview that nobody else had.

What's more, there's the question of whether some of the information the Post has is exclusively wrong.

 Discrepancies in the two newspapers' accounts are nothing new, especially on a complex story that's breaking fast and has a human-interest angle that demands immediate feature-style treatment.

But when the discrepancies concern basic facts about the case instead of complicated narrative bends, it gets tricky.

Let's start with the date of the kidnapping. Everyone agrees it was 1987, but beyond that it gets murky.

The Post cover declares it happened 23 years ago; but inside it says "some 23 years ago."

The News says 23 years on its cover, 24 years in its headline on the Web, and 23 years in the body text of the article.

Then there is the question of which quotes came from public press availabilities and which came from private interviews.

The Post has an "exclusive" photo; they claim an exclusive interview but some of the quotes in the Post piece pop up elsewhere, unattributed.

It's clear from the News story that a family meeting at LaGuardia airport was open to the press, and some things were said there.

Without being able to sort out which quotes come from which conversations, it's hard to break the tie.

 In the case of the News, which does not claim an exclusive, the reasons for that would seem obvious. But in the case of the Post, it's more suspicious. Why isn't everything that they have all to themselves clearly noted that way?

There are more discrepancies. Here's the Post on the topic of the woman who Carlina White says raised her:
The drug-abusing Agnotta Pettway—who has several aliases, according to Carlina—often abused her, once pummeling her with a shoe so hard that it left an imprint on her face.
And here's the News:
A Bridgeport woman named Mary Pettway confirmed that her daughter, Cassandra, had raised Carlina. She refused to discuss the relationship further.
And earlier:
Joy White said Carlina told her the woman was a drug user who abused her—once hitting her in the face with a shoe - and often left her alone to baby-sit her younger "brother."
It seems the News is putting forth hearsay—but they're admitting it.

The Post takes responsibility both for the charges that an Agnotta Pettway abused drugs and that she hit Carlina with a shoe, only sourcing the fact that Agnotta Pettway was the woman who raised her

. But then there's this in the Post: "The US Justice Department will pursue the case against Ann Pettway."

Cassandra, Agnotta, Ann.

 None of these creatures attributed as the fake "mother" to Carlina is mentioned as possibly being the nurse that took Carlina from the hospital back in 1987—after all, the kidnapper could have been working on behalf of the wanting mother, or could herself have decided to hand off the infant after the kidnapping.

But then there's the question of where this woman lives. The Post says it reached Pettway (Agnotta or Ann) "at her Raleigh, N.C. home." She told the paper she was heading up to Connecticut to "sort" everything out. The News says Cassandra Pettway lives in Georgia, and they reached her on her cell phone, where she said:
"Are you serious? What do you think my relationship is with her? Mother? No, that's why I won't talk to the media. They have it all wrong."
No, I don't know what any of this means, either.

Either way, the "EXCLUSIVE" tag won't do much for the Post, since the paper sits side by side with the News on the stand, bearing the same story. So it all comes down to the better cover.

Whatever our wonderings about the Post's exclusivity claims, the photo is theirs—and it makes the cover.

 Nor are they the worse in display copy: This was a lay-up, and the Post proves it. "KIDNAP MIRACLE" seems like a rubric or a dek, not a main hed. And anyway it's foggy:

The news is that the woman has been FOUND, not that there is a MIRACLE to do with her KIDNAP.