Magazine article The New Yorker

Tab War; Ink

Magazine article The New Yorker

Tab War; Ink

Article excerpt

No longer can it be said that the News, traditionally the more restrained of the city's rival tabloids, lacks a fighting spirit. The paper, reeling (or so said the Post, many times) from a lotto-game debacle that awarded cash prizes to thousands of readers by mistake, stepped up last Monday and finally played Hatfield to the Post's McCoy. First, the News touted its own success--"daily news ad sales hit record high"--while also noting the "sorry picture of the shrinking business prospects of the New York Post." Then, over the next several days, it ran a series of articles exposing an apparent "dump-and-pump" scheme at the Post, a "frantic, desperate effort" to boost circulation through bulk sales. The News, of course, has the higher circulation of the two.

The Post had been baiting the News for a week, ever since the News printed the wrong winning number in its popular Scratch n' Match game, then blamed an independent contractor on Long Island. Post editors ordered an all-points assault, marshalling at least twenty reporters and columnists in the cause of exposing their counterparts as "scamsters," "goobers," and "pinheads." The time-honored tradition of bestowing derogatory nicknames on rival executives (see Fred "Duckslayer" Drasner) was restored: the Cookie Monster, for the News' editor-in-chief, Michael Cooke; the Dunce, for its editorial director, Martin Dunn. Andrea Peyser, whose byline is mysteriously accompanied by the words "Columnist of the Year," filed two righteous missives, and Keith J. Kelly, the media columnist, mocked the publisher, Mort Zuckerman, for being out of town, sailing in the Galapagos Islands, as the ship was sinking back home. Even the cartoonist Sean Delonas weighed in, depicting the typical News reader as a bow-tied sad sack and the Post reader as a stud surrounded by buxom women.

Best of all were the quotes from the jilted would-be Scratch n' Match winners, many culled from a complaint hotline that the Post set up to catalogue all those deferred dreams. Larry Whitt, a forty-two-year-old homeless man who thought he'd won a hundred grand (before taxes), told the paper, "I'm deaf. I'm an actor and model, and I've had many problems due to my hearing loss. I thought the money could pay all my bills, help me start my own American/Italian restaurant, buy a car, help my mom buy a house in Los Angeles, and invest in stocks and bonds."

Last Wednesday, or Day Ten of the Post's "Scratch n' Stiff Scandal" watch, a few dozen Larry Whitt types assembled outside the offices of the News for a protest. …

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