WTC 18th-Century Ship Discovery: A New York Media Personality Test

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New York media outlets are like high-schoolers in a crowded lunchroom -- a circle of nerds, a coterie of posers, cool kids, laid-back social floaters, and, of course, the junkies. Every so often, stories significant enough to report but light enough for playful interpretation truly reveal media outlet personalities. This week, to our delight, such a story descended the ranks and disseminated like gossip in this hypothetical cafeteria: Construction workers found an 18th-century ship at the World Trade Center site, to the vast enchantment of archaeologists (and even more so, the New York Times). With that, here's the shipwreck media personality litmus test.

Sagacious Grandpa
New York Times -- posted July 14th 2010, 6:16 pm.

Obviously, the New York Times has been around the block. War in Afghanistan? All over it. Russian spies? On it. BP oil spill? Covered, like the Gulf Coast. Yet, like any brilliant and super-informed octogenarian, the Times becomes mystified by the awesomeness of everyday discoveries -- like The Olds on The Facebook! -- and now, the uncovering of 18th-century ship remnants at the World Trade Center site, which inspired this imagery-laden lede: "In the middle of tomorrow, a great ribbed ghost has emerged from a distant yesterday."

Cautiously Sensational Cheerleader
New York Daily News -- July 15th 2010, 10:00 am.

The Daily News echoes the Times's historigasmic reaction to the ship finding, calling it an "extraordinary discovery." And then, more, faster! "The archaeologists are in a race against time. The ship's delicate wood, now exposed to the air, is likely to start deteriorating quickly." But instead of going for their typical one-two-punchline (pirates? treasures? shipwreck?), the News drops the ball here in favor of a Times-style ooh and ahhh over something as historically significant as it is fragile, fleeting, and verrry old.

Too Cool for School
NYMag -- posted July 15th, 11:33 am.

New York Magazine is just so over hearing about historical shit, unless it's like, relevant, or something. They'd rather talk about something that's like so hot right now, but like, kinda funny too, like the Old Spice guy (love him!). Hence their "Explanation for Colonial-Era Ship Found at Ground Zero Is Kind of Disappointing," featuring far more questions than answers, since the questions could lead to much cooler answers than what's actually there. "Was it shipwrecked in a terrible storm? Could there be gold in there somewhere? Something to do with pirates? How did it get so far underground? Did 18th-century mole people live inside it? So many mysteries!"

The Slackers
NYPost -- posted July 15th 2010, 9:17 am.

Some media outlets weren't quite sure what to do with this breaking news story (after all, it has neither sex nor violence) -- so they delivered us the bare minimum. The New York Post ledes, "Part of a ship thought to date back to the 18th century was unearthed on the site for the new World Trade Center, the New York Times reported Wednesday." For a publication that usually sensationalizes, we were more shocked by the simple recounting of details that followed than the actual story itself.

Gawker -- posted Jul 15th 2010, 12:50 am.

Even Gawker couldn't come up with something clever. This is their coverage in its entirety. Not redacted:

Construction workers excavating the World Trade Center site in New York City happened upon a 30-foot-long ship, dating back to the mid-1700s, some 20 or 30 feet below street level. They also seem to have found a (18th-century) shoe.

Thanks for that bit about the shoe, though!

The Dorky Overachiever
Gothamist -- July 15th 2010, 10:20 am.

Often in the news cycle, especially online, it's like a race of thematic rhetorical devices. Who can come up with the most clever maritime cliche pun? With "Ahoy! 18th Century Ship Found At World Trade Center Site," Gothamist is the group's salutatorian.

Guy Hiding in the Bushes Wanting to Sell You Shrooms Who You're Not Sure Even Goes to Your School
The Awl -- posted July 15th 2010, 9:08 am.
Let's start with the title: "Extremely Dense Black Monolith [Monolith] Found at World Trace Center Site." Well, count on the Awl to speak for itself, even if the words resembles your most recent acid trip. Choire opted for a fictional (we hope) tale of post-apocalyptic New York, stricken with Palin Presidency and still working on the World Trade Center site. As the title implies, though, the 18th-century ship in question is not the focus of this breaking news story:

"By 2024, the diggers had forgotten why they were digging...(sic) Down and down: beneath the many layers of lost keys, beneath the slave bones, beneath the aboriginal bones, beneath the immense schooner which was later found to have been scuttled in 1752 to form a reef, down even beneath the bones of some cat that must have stood 15 hands tall, one day a digger found his digging exoskeleton had become fastened to the spot."

But what happens to this mysterious monolith?

"Sammy, one of the diggers, put the monolith on his truck, and, driving slowly between the armed guards of the Green Zone Highway, took it back to his two-bedroom palace in the Walled City of Great Neck. Sammy turned the monolith on its side and put his TV on it."

That was awesoooome.

So, where's our seat at the cafeteria? Well, we're not totally cracked out, but we might have missed class now and again. Professor, what's another word for pirate treasure?

[awerner@villagevoice.com]
[lminora@villagevoice.com]



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