Daily News Loses At Its Own Game

"American support to Vietnam has always been based on the fear that Communist control of this country would jeopardize all of Southeast Asia …"-Homer Bigart, The New York Times, February 25, 1962

Oddly, Bigart's quote – a reference to the infamous "domino theory" of American cold war fame – seems appropriate this morning when one looks at the cover of the Daily News. The theory was eventually discredited when it came to Vietnam. But it was apparently on the money as applied to the News and its ill-fated love affair with the "Scratch n' Match" game. 108-0322smallfront.jpg Loyal readers of the News have watched for months as "coverage" of the game crept into the area normally reserved for news. First there were the sad stories—set off in italics but tucked in among the standard tales of war and murder—of people whose lives reportedly were transformed by the $25 they won in the game. Then there was the relentless incursion of Scratch n' Match on to the News's cover. No matter what the other news of the day, one began to expect a garish plug for the game on one's doorstep. But hey, we figured, if that's how the News needs to sell papers, we can live with it.

Now, today, Tuesday, March 22, 2005, we have the fall of Saigon. Scratch n' Match has completely taken over the cover of New York's leading tabloid, with the paper offering $1 million in a special drawing for people who were led to believe they'd won $100,000 in Saturday's game. There is no other news on the front cover of one of our nation's largest circulation newspapers. And as if that weren't enough, the News continues its damage control with a two-page spread on pages 2 and 3. Meanwhile, it's not like there's a dearth of good tabloid stories out there. Some kid in Minnesota shot up his high school. And the nation (or at least The New York Times) remained gripped by the grotesque Terry Schiavo saga. Within its own pages on Monday, the News downplayed a huge scoop: James Gordon Meek's report on domestic spying by the CIA.

The worrying thing is that the News is the key newspaper in this little town of 8 million. The Times has a national profile and its well-known liberal but establishmentarian outlook. The Post is . . . well, the Post. Newsday still isn't that much of a player, and the Sun's Likudnik politics restrict it to the fringe. The News seemed to speak to the broad swath of working class New York. 'Tis a shame, then, that its readers are being led to believe that the big story of our world is the Scratch n' Match game. Apparently it's a game we can all lose even if we don't play.

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