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'Tabloid Wars': Dog-Eat-Dog Reporting in NYC


I'm Noah Adams. This is DAY TO DAY. The New York Daily News has been getting the inside scoop on stories big and small since it first launched back in 1919. And now the new television reality show Tabloid Wars on Bravo is doing the same to the newspaper, pulling back the curtain on its inner workings. Here is television critic Andrew Wallenstein.

Mr. ANDREW WALLENSTEIN (Television Critic, The Hollywood Reporter): Full disclosure, I am a newspaper reporter reviewing a show about newspaper reporters. So forgive me if I came into Tabloid Wars a little skeptical about how interesting a reality show might be about my business. Point a camera at my cubicle and all you're bound to see is cursing and coffee drinking.

Now Tabloid Wars isn't that uneventful, but that's about as strong a praise as I can offer. Here's the newsflash: the people who cover the news aren't nearly as compelling as the news itself.

The show is called Tabloid Wars because its backdrop is the long rivalry between the New York Daily News and cross-town paper the New York Post, which is never seen but looms large in the show. Daily News Editor-in-Chief Michael Cooke doesn't mince words when he assesses the competition.

Mr. MICHAEL COOKE (Editor-in-chief, New York Daily News): I get up in the morning and go out and fight the Post. They have no mercy, those people. And neither do we. We put our foot on their throat every day and press down until their eyes bulge and leak blood. And still they won't die. We'll just have to keep at it until they do die. And die they will.

Mr. WALLENSTEIN: The show examines the process of news gathering, from the reporter out pounding the pavement in search of stories to the editors back at the newsroom deciding which one will make the cover. The problem is, is this mostly consists of barking into phones and banging away at keyboards, which isn't quite the visual treat of say Survivor or Dancing with the Stars.

Tabloid Wars also debunks the myth perpetuated by movies like Superman. Journalists aren't all blustery hot-headed characters butting heads. Most are pretty mild-mannered measured types who don't translate well to TV. But if I had to pick a favorite, it would be the indefatigable Kerry Burke, who spends his days knocking on doors and poking his head under police tape.

Watching him and rival reporters stake out the home of a crime victim is not unlike watching vultures swooping around a carcass. In what may be the most charming Boston accent on TV since Cheers, Burke bemoans the Tabloid obsession with all things celebrity.

Mr. KERRY BURKE (Reporter, New York Daily News): I loathe celebrity stories. I don't care about celebrities. Celebrities aren't news. I mean, they are news because people are interested. But come on, this lady swiped some earrings. That ain't exactly like triple homicide in the South Bronx.

Mr. WALLENSTEIN: Tabloid Wars is not a documentary, but like solid journalism it's an accurate depiction of what the job is really like. Unfortunately, that's also the show's weakness. Now everyone knows how boring we really are.

(Soundbite of music)

ADAMS: The show Tabloid Wars debuts tonight on the cable channel Bravo. Andrew Wallenstein is an editor for The Hollywood Reporter. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Andrew Wallenstein
Andrew Wallenstein is the television critic for NPR's Day to Day. He is also an editor at The Hollywood Reporter, where he covers television and digital media out of Los Angeles. Wallenstein is also the co-host of the weekly TV Guide Channel series Square Off. His essay on Holocaust films was published in Best Jewish Writing 2003 (Jossey-Bass), and he has also written for The New York Times, The Boston Globe and Business Week. He has a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University.