Spider-Man Scales Front Page at Pioneer Press

Spider-Man took over the front page of the St. Paul Pioneer Press on Friday -- and not the benevolent, good-guy superhero. Or so it seemed: Peter Parker's black-suited alter ego took up a quarter of the cover space, and the crouching web-slinger's ominous visage even obscured the name of the newspaper. The subhead read, "More villains, more action, more romance."

City Pages' Paul Demko seemed to think they left a line out: "More whoring ourselves out to advertisers."

True, the paper dedicated considerable space to the Sony Pictures film, opening May 4. In addition to 25 percent of the cover, half of the front of the Daily Life section went to the film review, the story was continued on 2E, and a full-color, 1/6-page ad for the movie appeared on 3E. (Across the river, the Star Tribune included a small photo teaser for the film on its cover, plus a review on the cover of its Scene section. Curiously, both print editions had a near-identical "Tangled Web" headline. I blame Par Ridder.)

Pioneer Press editor Thom Fladung said no ad dollars were involved in the decision to give the film such prominence. So why the hype?

"It's a huge movie opening tonight," he said. "On a day when we didn't have big compelling breaking news, I thought it was a way to make the front-page look distinctive."

But given Pioneer Press critic Chris Hewitt's rave-free review -- he said the film was "bloated," "a bust," "a real yawner," and "about as thrilling as walking into a cobweb" -- wasn't that action/romance/villains headline a bit of a bait-and-switch?

"Did it feel that way to you?" Fladung asked. "It didn't feel that way to me."

Related: "Front & Center: Metro Dailies Quietly Put Ads on Section Covers"

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