Tabloid Headlines: Sam Roberts and Mickey Carroll | Tony Guida’s NY

>>>TONY GUIDA: Hello I’m
Tony Guida. Welcome to My New York. I’d like to show
you a masterpiece. Front page of The Daily News
October 30th 1975, maybe the most famous tabloid
headline in the history of American journalism. It
galvanized the city. It cost the president his job.
And it sold a ton of papers. But how much longer are we
going to see headlines like that one? Today’s program,
requiem for an art form, the tabloid headline. ♪ [Theme Music] ♪>>>TONY GUIDA: To guide us
through the glories and the ghastlies of tabloid
newspapers in their headlines, we have Mickey Carroll,
once of the New York Post and other New York papers now
director of the Quinnipiac University polling
Institute and Sam Roberts Once of the daily news now
a polymath At the New York Times Welcome to both of
you nice to have you with us.>>>SAM ROBERTS:
Thank you Tony. >>>TONY GUIDA: Sam you
were at the Daily News on the occasion of Ford the
City Drop Dead. Tell us about the creation
of that headline?>>>SAM ROBERTS: Well I was
there at the creation I was city editor at The Daily
News then and President Ford was speaking in Washington.
Talking about denying New York City loans to
help it out of its fiscal crisis and Mike O’Neill who
is the editor of the news and Bill Brink the managing editor
were coming back from lunch that day and asked
what it was that Ford had said. And I think it was I who had
told him that Ford said no he wasn’t going to help out
the city and Mike O’Neill threw up his arms and said
in a vulgarism that I will not quote directly on this
program. Well he said F- you to which Bill Brink
said well drop dead. And it was one of those eureka
moments in journalism he just knew the headline
came out right there- >>>TONY GUIDA: And it
happened that quickly? >>>SAM ROBERTS: That
quickly. That simply that creatively and everyone
knew right then and there that was the headline. >>>MICKEY CARROLL: That’s
the way they usually are. Well know that you know the
famous ones are not created and put together, the famous
ones come off your head.>>>SAM ROBERTS: No of
course if you would have counted it well also but
it would have gotten past the censors. But drop dead
was perfect, it fit, it was right on the nose, now
of course Ford and Hugh Carey and everyone else
will say President Ford never really said that but he
certainly said that in essence.>>>TONY GUIDA: He never
said those two words but this certainly encapsulated
fairly you know his stance is toward the city at that
point and the interesting thing about Ford was he a
he was a moderate Republican. I mean we don’t even we
don’t even know that there are such things anymore. Well he
was and in retrospect people will make the argument that by
denying the city loans at that point he helped build
up a case in Congress the city did more to put
its house in order and he managed to galvanize more
support in Congress over the next few months. But
the fact is that headline captured the essence of
what he said right then and it really galvanized the city.
It just captured the spirit of the city in making its
case before the American people.>>>MICKEY CARROLL: Absolutely. >>>TONY GUIDA: What kind
of reaction was there at the paper, when the paper
finally came out what kind of calls what kind of I don’t know
feedback were you getting?>>>SAM ROBERTS: Well it
was one of those feelings of elation. I mean you
knew you had scored a hit and->>>MICKEY CARROLL: Every News
did with its headlines, every other day basically.>>>SAM ROBERTS: Well
pretty much, I mean the news was famous for great
headlines. But one of the things that was so
important about a headline like that there are a lot
of great tabloid headlines that are funny, That are
clever that are shrewd that are puns but this one
came off the news. And the great tabloid headline
is one that is clever and newsy and this had the
best combination of both it was a news headline. It
came off a news story and it was succinct, it captured
the essence of what was said and it was unforgettable.
And you know when people said this was the, or one of the
most famous tabloid headlines ever and as you
pointed out earlier It had an enormous impact. It arguably
did cost for the presidency.>>>TONY GUIDA: Yeah and
something ironic about that because we’re talking about
what kind of man he was and what kind of politician he
was and he as I recall, kind of liked New York his
treasury secretary however->>>MICKEY CARROLL: Simon.
Don’t forget, Nelson Rockefeller was down there and Nelson
Rockefeller the moderate Republican by every test
Rockefeller was down there really leaning on New York
partly I’m convinced, because he
still resented John Lindsay. You know if you
stop and think of all the things he did. The MTA was
created because basically Rockefeller wanted to
take the subways away from Lindsay. So yeah
Rockefeller was down there
saying, tuition on City
University, let’s make them behave themselves. >>>TONY GUIDA: Right.
Pushing the hard line along with Simon as
I understand it. >>>SAM ROBERTS: Oh Bill
Simon was the force behind all of that, he was the one he
was the Dr. No saying just nothing for New York. And it
was interesting because of course of the following
campaign. Jimmy Carter would frequently in New York saying
I’ll never say drop dead to New York.>>>TONY GUIDA: Right and I
found this wonderful quote from Victor Gotbaum, the late
lamented wonderful labor leader->>>MICKEY CARROLL:
Great quotes always. >>>TONY GUIDA: Victor
Gotbaum said of Simon, Bill Simon “Mr. Simon barely
believed in government at all except for police
and fire protection and he’s not sure about fire.”>>>SAM ROBERTS: Certainly
not in the case of New York.>>>TONY GUIDA: No. You were
talking about witty headlines, funny headlines, and headlines
really just jump off the page to use a kind of I don’t
know what we could call that of figure of speech it’s
literal and but there’s this one in the post, Headless body
in topless bar. This is a headline from a 1983, New
York Post. You were gone from->>>MICKEY CARROLL: Oh I
just passed through the Post briefly on my
way to the Herald- >>>SAM ROBERTS: You
say that now Mickey. >>>MICKEY CARROLL: It
was a good paper I love working there but I wasn’t there long
enough to make an impact.>>>TONY GUIDA: Has there
ever been a more both witty yet funny
and horrific line- >>>MICKEY CARROLL: Horrific,
I don’t know but witty I can remember when there was a
time in the Daily News that they used to pay off in
cash on Fridays.>>>SAM ROBERTS: Oh yeah. >>>MICKEY CARROLL: And there
was a payroll robbery at the Daily News and the
headline was “We Was Robbed.”>>>SAM ROBERTS: We
Was Robbed. Exactly. >>>MICKEY CARROLL: And
the famous one you got it there on your list some
place, the “Who’s a Bum.”>>>TONY GUIDA: We’ll go
to that in a second but I have one more thought
about this Post headline or I want to ask you
guys I mean I think you’re probably both in your
newspaper years have created headlines a bit in
that process of having to come up with a headline- >>>MICKEY CARROLL:
Tony it’s funny I wrote headlines for a living
for a little bit and I was never like great at it, so
I remember the one or two good ones I did. I
remember at the Ledger there was a story and on
the ledger we were all part timers from the New
York papers and so they’ll hand you a pile of stories
that high for the Sunday paper after the paper came
out for the day and they had a story I still remember
it was a story about you know about how you got to be
tough with kids and if you do that a little bit, it’ll help
them. And I figured well you know an apple a day
keeps a doctor away. I wrote a headline said, “A
Hard Knock a Day Keeps the Psychiatrist Away.”
That was a good headline.>>>SAM ROBERTS: What was
so interesting about the headless headline was that
the story was relatively insignificant. I mean you
know it was a story that would not ordinarily
get on the front page- >>>TONY GUIDA: Well a
psycho early in the morning, well passed midnight, a
psycho in a Queens bar murders I think it was the owner
but then finds out that one of the patrons at the bar,
then, you know that night, is a woman who happens to
work in a for an undertaker. And so he forces her to
decapitate the body.>>>MICKEY CARROLL: Really
that’s what happened? >>>TONY GUIDA: I mean but
your point, you know it’s a grisly story but is
it front-page material? >>>SAM ROBERTS: The
headline made it front page->>>MICKEY CARROLL: Yeah
headline made the story, it wasn’t a story, a two
bit little story, like that. Yeah. But->>>SAM ROBERTS: And in a
tabloid paper that’s what you do, and
unapologetically. >>>MICKEY CARROLL: Yeah right. >>>TONY GUIDA: We have to
tip our hats I think to Vinnie Musetto who is the
editor from The Post who is credited with that headline,
he died this past June and all the obits of course talked
about, I saw a little clip of Vinnie on the David
Letterman show in the 80’s, Two or three years after this
headline with Letterman taking him through you know some of
the Great Post headlines. Oddly, this one was way
down the list, at least Letterman’s list; I think
he needed a better editor. But then Vinnie said to
Letterman it was one of the most infamous
headlines ever written- >>>SAM ROBERTS: And yet as
you pointed out it almost didn’t get in the paper. >>>TONY GUIDA: Yeah. They
had, he had to, he says he had to fight for it.
Number one they weren’t sure it was a topless bar->>>MICKEY CARROLL: The argument
was that they didn’t know if it was a topless
bar of course lots of times, a lot of places I’ve worked
you’d say well you know, could have been but they were
very careful.>>>TONY GUIDA: We’re having
this discussion and we have plenty more headlines to
show. I think because we’re in the age of the Internet,
newspapers are being devoured by the Internet and we know
that the thing that you hold in your hand is becoming obsolete.>>>MICKEY CARROLL: I hope
not Tony. But I think you’re probably right. >>>SAM ROBERTS: Although
we still love headlines. There are still titles on
stories in whatever form they take theoretically. >>>TONY GUIDA: Sure
but there’s something, I somehow feel a different I
wonder what your feeling is about this, if you’re
holding the Daily News or the Post in your hand and
you see those front pages or you see it on the
newsstand and your eye goes to it and
you pick it up. >>>SAM ROBERTS: That is
the difference because when we had a headline on
David Berkowitz and again this is not related to
the cleverness of the headline, It was related to the news
we at The Daily News would sell hundreds of thousands
of extra papers a day. And it depended on that
headline. So that headline was really crucial. Now you’re
depending on line, on algorithms to sell the number
of hits that you’re getting, you’re depending on the words
in the story or the words in copy. And it’s
just not the same thing. Or maybe it is the same thing->>>MICKEY CARROLL: There’s,
look somebody has to put a title on the story and I,
the day I went to the Times, the Times of all places not the
liveliest paper in the world. I got at that->>>TONY GUIDA:
Really? Really? >>>MICKEY CARROLL: Well
when I was there I’m sure it was livelier and you’ve
made it so. But anyway, I got there and I just
was, and there was a headline I remembered it
to this day an absolutely innocuous little headline
on the entertainment page because it was somebody
who had been thinking when he wrote the thing,
because I remember the headline said French
and Frankly Romantic. Now isn’t that clever? There’s
a pun within the headline->>>TONY GUIDA: Right. >>>MICKEY CARROLL: And
that’s, don’t forget you talk about brilliant headlines
but you’ve got to remember Tony that they were within a
mathematical construct the normal one column headline
was three lines of twelve count. Now twelve ain’t easy. And try->>>TONY GUIDA: Explain to
our audience what twelve count or what count means.>>>MICKEY CARROLL: Each letter
had a numerical significance depending on the width of
the letter. M and W were one and a half the other’s
were one. Capital letters were->>>TONY GUIDA: So this
is all about how many how much, which letters you can use->>>MICKEY CARROLL: You
could put it there and if it didn’t fit, type was
metal, you can’t squeeze it you know, if it didn’t
fit it didn’t go. So there were, to construct just to
plan a newsy, interesting, clever headline
were not easy. >>>TONY GUIDA: Let’s look
at that great front page when the Dodgers won,
“Who’s a Bum.” I mean of course the Dodgers were
known as bums all those years, the Brooklyn bums, and this
is a caricature but this 1955 and of course the
Dodgers, was that their first?>>>MICKEY CARROLL: Only. >>>TONY GUIDA:
Their only? – >>>MICKEY CARROLL: Yes. >>>TONY GUIDA: Their
only, in Brooklyn. >>>MICKEY CARROLL: I’ll
give you the lineup of if you’re interested. No seriously.>>>SAM ROBERTS: it’s
easy to remember. >>>MICKEY CARROLL: It was,
Yeah it was the one time they did it, don’t forget
they would come close and they did come close and
then finally what they do is come to Los Angeles
but the, that was the year that they won and It was
you know Brooklyn. Well you’re from
Brooklyn aren’t you Sam? >>>SAM ROBERTS: Yes. >>>MICKEY CARROLL: And
Brooklyn has a, not just a cliché baloney about on
the movies when there’s- >>>SAM ROBERTS:
There’s a mystique. >>>MICKEY CARROLL: Yes
there is, there is a Brooklyn, a Brooklyn
sense, I’m from Brooklyn and->>>TONY GUIDA: Are
you a Brooklyn fan? >>>SAM ROBERTS:
Yes of course. >>>TONY GUIDA: And so this
must’ve a joyful moment, the best- >>>MICKEY CARROLL:
Absolutely, that book, Wait till next year. Great
book about being a Dodger fan in a little
town in Long Island. >>>SAM ROBERTS: Waiting
till next year. Every year.>>>TONY GUIDA: We’re going
back to the Daily News early on in tabloid history Daily
News was what 1919 I think it began in New York. Within ten
years it had rocked the nation with a front-page
headline about an execution.>>>MICKEY CARROLL:
Yes Ruth Snyder. >>>TONY GUIDA: And we’re going
to take a look at it it’s got->>>SAM ROBERTS: I have a
terrible story about that headline.>>>TONY GUIDA: All right
just before you tell it, this is the picture, this
is a photograph of a woman named Ruth Snyder in the
electric chair at Sing Sing at the moment presumably
that they’re pulling the switch, this is 1927. What’s the story
that->>>SAM ROBERTS: Well the
story is that at the Daily News the executive dining
room they would have plates that had the front
pages of all the great front pages of The Daily
News and every time I would go to a publisher’s
lunch at The Daily News somehow I would wind up
with that plate, I would invariably switch it
with someone else- >>>TONY GUIDA: Is somebody
trying to tell you something?>>>SAM ROBERTS: I don’t
know I’m not sure but I would always go to the
dining room and there was the plate with “Dead” on
it, how could you possibly have a good meal looking
at Ruth Snyder in the electric chair. So I would
always switch it with someone else. But it was
a great front page and it was taken surreptitiously
in the death house by a photographer who had a
rubber bulb running with a you know wire and took
the picture illegally of course and had it developed
and it ran on the front page of the news and it was one of
the most powerful photographs ever. And it brought
home to people for better or for worse just what
an electrocution was all about.>>>TONY GUIDA: Could that
front page happen today? I mean beside the fact
that the electric chair’s been unplugged.>>>SAM ROBERTS: Legally
or journalistically? >>>TONY GUIDA:
Journalistically. >>>SAM ROBERTS: I think it
could, yeah, I think I’m not sure it could in a
mainstream paper but with someone printed today?
Yeah, of course. Yes someone would sure.>>>TONY GUIDA:
Daily News or Post no? >>>SAM ROBERTS: No. >>>MICKEY CARROLL: It
would be one of the alternative papers one of
the people who specialize in.>>>SAM ROBERTS:
I don’t know. >>>MICKEY CARROLL: Well I
think so Sam because don’t forget a lot a lot of things
change when you and I were covering politics there was
always some kid from a small paper that would use a
quote that we didn’t for some reason or other so
yeah it would happen.>>>SAM ROBERTS: I think
someone would use it I’m not so sure the News or
the Post would not is what I’m saying.>>>TONY GUIDA: Well we’re
talking about 1927 when that happened and when
tabloid journalism was at a ferocious peak in this
city when there were only two compete- I think there
were only two there was The Mirror, Hearst’s
paper, and The Daily News. But the objective to sell
and push and maybe push the boundaries
a little bit- >>>SAM ROBERTS: And I’m
not even, I mean if you had a picture today of
someone being executed. >>>MICKEY CARROLL: Well
you’ve got to all these- >>>SAM ROBERTS: You
have hangings you have beheadings. I’m not sure
the Times wouldn’t use it.>>>MICKEY CARROLL: Yeah.
People read this paper for breakfast at the overall
so you know the theory has always been don’t offend
them in that sense don’t, well not offend, don’t- >>>SAM ROBERTS: Nauseate.>>>TONY GUIDA: Don’t nauseate.
Alexander Hamilton with a tear in his eye. The founder
of The New York Post Alexander Hamilton, with
a tear in his eye it was basically a rebellion
by the staff led by Pete Hamill against a guy who
owned the paper for what two weeks or something? >>>SAM ROBERTS: Two long
weeks. Abe Hirschfeld took over the band and good for
Pete Hamill and good for freedom of the press that
they were able to run that front-page.>>>MICKEY CARROLL: Nobody
could stop him they it was that must’ve been probably
the only time that there was just plain freedom. I mean
to be, it was a collective. They own they ran the paper.
You know it’s funny you always feel when you work at
a paper that it’s your paper. Not owner’s and in certain
sense it is but in that case it really was. They
didn’t, nobody could stop em’.>>>TONY GUIDA: Yeah. Thank
you Pete Hamill yes. >>>MICKEY CARROLL: A great
journalist and was great at the News and the Post.>>>TONY GUIDA: We wouldn’t. We’d
be remiss if we didn’t show some headlines that the tabloids
are famous for about sex scandals I mean they’re
wonderful fodder for headlines and we have->>>SAM ROBERTS: We
have Anthony Weiner.>>>TONY GUIDA: Well we
have Anthony Weiner but number nine in our little
file. If you have that it’s “Cloak and Shag her.” David
Petraeus. 2012 when the CIA director is found to be having
an affair with this woman who had written a book
about him and one thing and another. But that’s so goof that
is so clever. It just makes you, I don’t know it makes you want
to smile at the cleverness of whoever came up with that
and the pun on of course on cloak and dagger.>>>MICKEY CARROLL: Of
course and awful lot of clever headlines are
plays on words. It’s funny because the some of the
things and you go back to the Ford to said he
dropped dead which was not a play on words it was just
plain the story encapsulated.>>>SAM ROBERTS:
In your face. >>>MICKEY CARROLL: Exactly
and but an awful lot of you know let’s face it tabloids
have done sex stories for years. You read em’ everybody
reads em’. And so they->>>SAM ROBERTS: And one
of the great things again about Ford the city drop
dead is what you want in a headline is to sell papers
and that headline moved people. It not just gave you a chuckle
or a smile. It got you angry and you know with Luck
it got you angry enough to plunk down whatever it was
five cents or something to buy the paper.>>>TONY GUIDA: I think the
outrage of the Daily News this is palpable on the front
page of that paper. I mean->>>SAM ROBERTS: It was
saying we were screwed by the president and people->>>MICKEY CARROLL: Which was
true as a matter of fact->>>SAM ROBERTS: That’s
right. And people picked up the paper almost in you
know sympathy and empathy in you know a concerted
show of support. >>>TONY GUIDA: Well we
were talking about sex scandals a moment ago
and I think you mentioned Weiner and we have a
couple of those from I think the Post. Yeah
there’s “Weiner Exposed” I mean this this was too
easy right because of his name.>>>MICKEY CARROLL: His name. >>>SAM ROBERTS: Yeah you
know I mean it was too easy.>>>TONY GUIDA: And the
other one “Weiner’s Rise and Fall” when it finally
got too much any he had to quit. He had to resign from Congress.
We don’t need to explain the puns and anything?>>>SAM ROBERTS: No
I don’t think so. >>>TONY GUIDA: I
don’t think so. >>>SAM ROBERTS: No >>>TONY GUIDA: Let’s take
a look at we’ll just run through a few others. Yeah this is
House of Turds when Congress shuts down the government.
But right before that I think we have one for Governor
Spitzer. Didn’t we have? Yes. This is our, the love gov,
somebody called him, client number nine
and what year was that? 2008 I guess. You know you guys
are veteran of the political you know covering politics. I
mean there have been some pretty stupid moves by prominent
political figures. Where does this one rate?>>>MICKEY CARROLL: He
wasn’t a prominent enough guy to really matter- >>>TONY GUIDA: Well he was
the governor of New York.>>>MICKEY CARROLL:
Yeah but very briefly. >>>TONY GUIDA: Yeah
well because of this. >>>MICKEY CARROLL: Yeah right. >>>SAM ROBERTS: And
also if he had had the political support that he
should’ve had in cultivated I think he
could have ridden it out.>>>MICKEY CARROLL: I don’t
know about that one. >>>TONY GUIDA: Give me if
you can in thirty seconds or less what are we losing
when in terms of what we’ve been seeing here headlines, ass
the papers disappear?>>>SAM ROBERTS: We’re
losing a good time. We’re losing an edge. We’re
losing fun. We’re losing an alternative in things
that we read we’re losing another view. We should
have more of this we should have you know
more views more eyes more perspective more context.
And the more alternative sources we get for
news the better. >>>MICKEY CARROLL: Fun.
That’s what you’re losing. Fun. You know the tabloids
specialize you know they gave good honest
news but they had fun- >>>SAM ROBERTS: And didn’t
take themselves seriously, too seriously. >>>MICKEY CARROLL: Well
some places do you know. >>>TONY GUIDA: You don’t
want to get in trouble now.>>>MICKEY CARROLL: But I
do remember when I worked at Herald Tribune the best
paper that we’ve ever had we’ve ever seen. They had
that ad campaign who says a good newspaper
has to be dull. >>>SAM ROBERTS:
That’s right. >>>MICKEY CARROLL: And in a
very neat, editorial kind of hand on a poster in the subway
station somebody wrote Ted Bernstein, because
he was the night editor of the Times.>>>TONY GUIDA: Right.
Mickey Carol. Sam Roberts. It’s a delight to have you
with us and thank you so much.>>>MICKEY CARROLL: Thank you. >>>TONY GUIDA: And thank
you. We will see you next week. ♪ [Theme Music] ♪