Someone once smarter than I am once told me that Manhattan could best be described as an island located somewhere off the coast of America. The same can be collectively said for the New York Post, our beloved and much-maligned (often for good reason) hometown newspaper.
The Post has always been a lightning rod because of its salacious, in-your-face headlines, exemplified by "Headless Body in Topless Bar," a gem from three decades ago that everyone seems to remember vividly. It may actually be the most infamous headline in modern tabloid journalism history. The Post has been known to publish lots of female skin, too, occasionally on the front page.
The Post's columnists are highly opinionated and can ruffle their subjects because they take no prisoners. Clearly it is not a paper for everyone's taste.
But find me a New Yorker who claims not to read Page Six, its notorious gossip section, and I'll show you a ... liar.
Who didn't follow the Post closely during the meltdown of mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner, who seemed to exist purely for the great pleasure of the Post's clever headline writers. The Post, in a way, has spawned such well regarded operations as Gawker and Buzzfeed.
But the Post has been wounded. Like most newspapers, it is feeling the financial pinch of an advertising slowdown and the rise of the Internet. There are dark whispers that the Post will become a sign of the times and may eventually have to go away.
I sure hope not. That would be a tragedy for the city, the journalism industry and people who flat-out love the paper.
The Post occupies a special niche in what Paul Simon once called "my little town" -- and so does the Daily News. It seems to be on more solid financial footing, though who really knows.
The News, by the way, has its own famous headline to cherish: "Ford to City: Drop Dead," relating to the 1970s financial crisis engulfing New York City, when President Gerald Ford appeared to turn his back on us (meanwhile, "headless man in topless bar" requires no explanation; it's perfect just the way it was written).
The Post speaks for us. Its one-time slogan -- "Everyone Reads the Post" -- rang true. Its specialties, sports and gossip, have universal appeal in this city, from tony Sutton Place to the gritty neighborhoods in Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx and Staten Island (not to mention greater Manhattan itself).
It's impossible not to notice the gloom and doom surrounding the paper these days. But this is also a constant theme in the modern newspaper business. New York needs the Post because the paper keeps us honest and will speak for everyone. It is a no-BS platform for getting to the bottom of public relations efforts from City Hall, Wall Street, Yankee Stadium and other fortresses of power.
The New York Post is an island off the coast of America -- and that's just fine with me.