Rupert Murdoch looked regal. When I got to the revolving doors of The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum it was swarming with people frantically operating smart phones, but I saw beyond them, to the screen assembled against the back wall. It was sixteen iPads wide by sixteen iPads high and there, staring back at me from the collage, was Mr. Murdoch, blinking and breathing. His nostrils flared in a way that made it clear: he was watching us, the rabid press corp, as we arrived for the launch of his baby, The Daily, the first-ever iPad newspaper, but we could see him too. Welcome to the future, his face said. “Fourteen cents a day,” I thought to myself, clutching my iPad in one hand, the New York Post and Wall Street Journal in the other. I took a deep breath. It would be my last time holding either. A single tear fell from my eye as I broke the threshold of the Upper East Side landmark.
The lobby was packed with men holding laptops. I asked the guy beside me — brown hair cropped close, glasses, iPhone, iPad — and he confirmed what I already feared. I was late and upstairs, he said, was packed. As for him? A blogger, kept out of the event for space. He flashed me his iPhone screen. I had received an identical message yesterday afternoon: “100% booked solid at this point. I’m so sorry. I’ll be sure to get you a release, though. I know that’s not the same, but best I can do right now.” Signed, a high-priced flack.
I steered around the rejected blogger, the sad chump, his eyes red and mouth weighed down with defeat. Where was his willpower? As I bounded up the helical spiral to the top of the museum, my heart raced. I made the first two rotations in a matter of seconds. Surely it couldn’t be this easy. I could hear the rumble of the crowd and electronic harp music echoing from above.
And then came the obstacles. After another full rotation, working my way up to the top of the building, I was met by a blonde wearing a tuxedo. She held a clipboard and her steely look stopped me cold. In an Australian accent, she presented me with a trivia question, putting my News Corp. knowledge to the test. Little did she know I could rattle off the Page Six Magazine inaugural masthead, probably while simultaneously coding a blingee background for a MySpace page.
I proceeded, but level after level I was met again by a platinum protector. It would have been impossible for it to have been the same woman, always beating me upward, though I could not differentiate if not for the increasing difficulty of the questions. Through Iguide, Photobucket and Skiff, I persevered, proving my allegiance to the brand’s various digital forays. I knew I deserved a seat to see the unveiling, Murdoch together on stage with Apple’s Eddy Cue and Daily editor Jesse Angelo. I deserved to see our saviors in person.
Finally I reached the top. I thought maybe it was because I was way in the back, but Rupert Murdoch looked as stunning in my eyes as he did on the iPad screens in the lobby. His skin was flawless, not a buzzed gray hair out of place. He even smiled, taking the stage. I moved closer. “In this exciting new era,” I heard him say, “we believe The Daily will be the model for how stories are told and consumed.” And from within me lurched a cry of joy.
Before heads could turn, I was surrounded by men in suits. Embarrassed by my outburst, I staggered back until I hit the solid wall. Over the edge, I peered down. The museum’s center skylight was dark and wet. The sea of the lowliest bloggers below, kept from the ceremony, peered up at me with supportive eyes. I turned to face my interrogators.
“Who do you represent?” one man in sunglasses demanded. “A news blog,” I said to no looks of recognition. “For the Village Voice!” Still nothing. “It’s called Runnin’ Scared.” I’m sure my voice was quavering. “We’ve been covering this launch for months,” I assured them. The guard to my left growled.
“Here, I’ll show you,” I said, attempting to pull an iPad from my messenger bag. From here it’s a blur. The device is sleek, slippery even, and as I raised it, the security surrounding me must have lunged forward, possibly thinking I was brandishing a weapon. They spun me around, a firm grip on my wrists, just in time to see the tablet tumble over the ledge. With a gasp, I watched the Apple device ($499) shatter on the bottom floor of the Guggenheim.
“Fourteen cents a day,” I whimpered to myself, as I was escorted out of the building. “Fourteen cents a day.”