Have New York media gone too far with Weiner coverage?

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NEW YORK (PIX11) – When you’re a public figure whose name is a synonym for the part of your anatomy that you admit — over and over — to sexting to women other than your wife, it invites all kinds of racy headlines and stories.  But are media going too far in their descriptions and depictions of Anthony Weiner, and how do they decide whether or not they’ve crossed a line of propriety?

A look at the Friday cover pages of New York’s tabloids could make some people say that the papers’ headline and photo editors don’t know where to draw the line.  But the people who feel that way probably wouldn’t buy those publications in the first place, according to a marketing and branding expert.

“It’s right on target,” said Mark Stevens, the CEO of the media marketing firm MCSO, regarding two things:  the New York Post’s cover page, which shows a nearly naked selfie photo that one of Anthony Weiner’s sexting partners sent the mayoral candidate, and the front page headline of the New York Daily News, which prominently features a sexual innuendo, for the third time this week.

“The readers of the Post and the News want to see that kind of, sort of weird pizzazz,” said Stevens.  As a branding expert to Fortune 500 companies, he’s well aware that Weiner’s confessed, but legal, improprieties are hurtful to Weiner’s image.

Stevens is also the author of the international bestseller Your Marketing Sucks, and in that capacity, he’s keenly aware that by using eye-catching and ear-grabbing language and images, commodities like newspapers can be more effectively sold.

However, Stevens pointed out, it’s not strictly about selling a publication.  The New Yorker magazine on Friday came out with a new cover illustration that depicts Weiner straddling the Empire State Building and, having pulled off the building’s antenna, leaving the landmark’s spire looking like a phallus.  Weiner photographs that with a smartphone in the illustration.

Analyzing that cover art, Stevens said, “I don’t think the New Yorker would use the kind of language the [tabloids] use,” but, he said, the image speaks much more strongly than titillating language anyway.

“More than anything else, Weiner is a cartoon character,” said Stevens.  “An ugly cartoon character.  When you have an ugly, mean kind of cartoon character that crosses the line, it’s a free for all for the media to do whatever they want to do, really.”

Love him or hate him, Anthony Weiner’s exploits attract attention from print as well as broadcast media.  PIX11 News is no exception to providing extensive coverage of the mayoral candidate and the fallout from his foibles.

Arguably, it’s like the old car crash analogy — you don’t want to keep watching, but you just can’t help it.  People that PIX11 News encountered at area news stands said as much.

Rudy Gonzalez had just paid for his copy of a tabloid when PIX11 News spoke with him.  “It’s The Post,” he said, referring to the newspaper he was about to read.  His assessment of its steamy Weiner front page echoed the analysis of Stevens, the branding expert.  “I don’t think it’s anything different. I’ve been buying them for years,” said Gonzalez about the Post.  “It’s always raunchy, but it sells.  What can I tell you.”

Regarding the sexual innuendo in the Daily News’s front page headline, West Greenwich Village resident Keith Liezy said, “This is just a silly sex joke that’s on the front page.  What more do you expect?”

However, there were exceptions to those opinions.  “We should give him a little break,” said voter Leticia Berrios in reaction to the tabloid covers about Weiner’s sexting.  “Cool it down a little bit, and give him the benefit of the doubt.”

She said that she would consider voting for Weiner if he were to make it to primary election day.  Stevens, the expert on protecting one’s brand, said that he was not convinced that Weiner would make it that far.