April 13, 2010

O'Bama's On Tap


By Tim McHale, Avid Newspaper Reader & "Beer Enthusiast."

I grew up around cops and beer. So when I glanced at the New York Times Newspaper and NYtimes.com, and then at the Wall Street Journal Newspaper and WSJ.com, I could not help but notice how the pictures covering the Beer Summit were so different in each. See below for the comparison.

There were 4 guys at the table, Vice President Biden, Professor Henry Gates, Jr., Sergeant James Crowley and President Obama each with a beer mug; so it irked me why both newspapers published their hard copy front page with a photo showing only one guy drinking. Of course, it was the Irish Cop.

My paternal grandfather was a New York City Policeman. He was an Irish Cop. With that evokes all the deserved and undeserved images that fit Irish cop family stereotypes. Over the last generation, the McHale clan has had within its ranks roughly 20 or so cops, ranging from street patrolman and undercover to detective and commissioner-level law enforcement officers.


Years ago, before it was torn down to build a condo on the corner of 46th & 8th Avenues, we had a celebrated New York Institution in the family as well, where many used to hang out after duty. McHale's Bar was given celebrity status by multiple sources. My favorite was that it was "The only Times Square Bar that does not attract tourists!"



If you were ever there, you would have been pleased with that. Growing old in New York, over the years, the building developed a tough exterior. However, inside it was as warm and cozy as any thatched roof pub in county Mayo, or on the outskirts of Dublin.


From the left, there was Vice President Biden, Henry Gates, Jr., Sergeant James Crowley and President Obama. The Wall Street Journal captures Sergeant Crowley drinking his beer, looking over the tip of his beer mug at Henry Gates. The New York Times photo had Crowley picking up the glass with a steeliness that looked paternally familiar. It reminded me of high school when I would get home later than usual after a Friday night school dance, packed with breath mints!



Conversely, the photos published on wsj.com and nytimes.com showed none of the Laddy's drinking. Rather, the Times had Gates smiling. The New York Times' quotation of the day was priceless. It was from Professor Gates, "We hit it off right from the beginning. When he's not arresting you, Sergeant Crowley is a really likeable guy."

Still, the choice of photos each media company chose to publish is near identical in their newspaper versions, as compared to the photos published on each media company's web site, which are also almost identical. The newspaper's photos are sobering and serious while the website shots are, at a minimum, less boozy.


I loved that the Times felt obligated to publish what brand of suds were in each guy's glass, along with the garnish used.

"The press was allowed only a peek at the gathering for about 40 seconds -- and from a distance so great that reporters could not hear a word that was said.

Mr. Obama and Mr. Biden were in shirtsleeves; Sergeant Crowley and Professor Gates wore suits.

The four drank out of beer mugs. Mr. Obama had a Bud Lite, Sergeant Crowley had Blue Moon, Professor Gates drank Sam Adams Light and Mr. Biden, who does not drink, had a Buckler nonalcoholic beer. (Mr. Biden put a lime slice in his beer. Sergeant Crowley, for his part, kept with Blue Moon tradition and had a slice of orange in his drink.)

The four men munched peanuts and pretzels out of small silver bowls."

Only St Patrick probably knows what the Brand Managers at each of these brewery's are thinking today, in each of their "earned" media moments. Perhaps the president had the luck of the blarney on his side when he agreed to meet for a beer under the Magnolia tree at the White House. If it took place in Boston, there would have been a riot!


Clearly, as evidenced by each media company's front page, their editors were playing to their audience niches by the photos they selected. Both selected similar shots for their hard copy readers (hard drinking conservatives) versus their new-age open-minded digital readers (Liberal Teetotalers).

What's amazing is that for all the minute-by-minute coverage leading up to this much-staged teachable moment, the White House was able to surprise everyone. Until they brought out the beers, the White House kept referring to the three guys who were going to have a beer: Skip, Jim and Barry. There was no mention of old Joe.


So when I saw Biden at the table, it made me forget all the stereotypical photo politics each media company was playing. It made me realize what a gem we have as a Vice President. Notwithstanding all the political gaffs he makes on a global scale, I could not help but smile to see that there was at least one person sitting at the table - drinking near-beer no less - who could crack a couple of jokes and know how to make our national race-laced beer moment fun!

Perhaps Obama should start inviting some world leaders over for a brewski.


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