The iconic New York weekly newspaper goes out with a 176-page commemorative issue which celebrates ‘the journalists and dedicated staff who made the Voice great’
This is getting all too familiar, a newspaper or magazine producing its final print edition. Today, it was The Village Voice unveiling its final issue. At least in this case the paper appears to be exiting print in style, with a 176-page commemorative issue.
Eventually I moved to California, and though the LA Weekly and Guardian were excellent alt-weeklies, they modeled themselves on The Village Voice, but could never approach its greatness. Every issue I could secure I searched for reviews or film analysis from Andrew Sarris, as well as other familiar names.
Although I am sure the folks at the Voice, including its current owner Peter Barbey, would prefer that we not dwell on the reasons for the decline of the Voice and its exit from print, one can’t help but talk about it today.
The Voice is a perfect example of what ails the industry today. For all the talk about the impact of digital media and digital advertising on the industry, the biggest impact is always changing management.
When you look around both the newspaper and magazine industries today you see it is dominated by cost cutters. It was this way a decade or longer ago, and well before the Internet began to dominate the way people got their news and information. While I was at McGraw-Hill a new president for the Construction Information Group was brought in who wanted to reengineer the division. He did so, and today there is no Construction Information Group at McGraw-Hill, and iconic magazines like ENR and Business Week (not part of that group) are with new owners.
Lesher Communications, once a wildly profitable suburban group, was sold off after the death of Dean Lesher, ending up eventually as part of MediaNews Group, the company founded by cost cutter Dean Singleton. Today, all the Lesher newspapers are gone, and consolidation has meant residents of Contra Costa county are under served.
For The Village Voice things must have been at least a little dire prior to its acquisition by New Times Media, but that acquisition killed off the Voice for a lot of readers as it fired many familiar reporters and columnists (Sarris was not one of them, but he was laid off by The New York Observer in 2009). It should be noted that others have owned the weekly, as well, including Rupert Murdoch, who was told by Nat Hentoff that he was the “most effective labor organizer I’ve ever known” for the way he was managing the paper. “The Village Voice, the bane of my existence,” Murdoch replied to Hentoff.
Now, like many publications, the Voice will become digital-only, which means the web (as Apple is working hard to kill off any chance that digital edition apps will succeed). In style terms, it means The Village Voice will stop being italicized after this week, and be styled like Salon and HuffPost. That has to sting.
Here is the announcement from The Village Voice on their final print edition:
New York, NY — September 20, 2017 — The Village Voice unveiled the final print edition of the iconic New York City weekly newspaper with a 176-page commemorative issue celebrating some of the people who have helped transform the Voice into a platform for agenda-setting journalism and taste-making cultural coverage for more than six decades. The Voice’s final print edition—a sweeping retrospective alongside hard-hitting current coverage—marks the conclusion of nearly 62 years in print coverage and the beginning of a new digital era for the iconic journalism outlet.
“The Village Voice’s print edition was much more than just a weekly newspaper but a public forum for ideas and a cultural touchstone for the progressive thought and envelope-pushing aesthetics that defined New York,” said Peter Barbey, CEO and owner of The Village Voice. “In this final print issue, we celebrate the journalists and dedicated staff who made the Voice great. As we shift to digital, we’ll continue to carry the torch of cultural connectivity and establishment-challenging politics that form the core of The Village Voice.”
In addition to the sweeping retrospective, the issue includes reporting on climate change in the aftermath of Houston flooding and Hurricane Irma, an in-depth investigation into New York’s latest tenant-landlord battle, a deep-dive analysis of the debate surrounding DACA, a preview of the 2017 New York Film Festival, and essential coverage of the city’s contemporary art world.
The final print edition puts a panoramic lens on some of its most influential contributors with a photo gallery of journalists, illustrators, photographers and staff, including co-founder Ed Fancher, theater critic Michael Feingold, film critics J. Hoberman and Amy Taubin, film columnist Jonas Mekas, art critics Jerry Saltz and Robert Smith, writer Touré, design director Robert Newman, music critic Robert Christgau, and many more.
In a curated portfolio of unforgettable images from the 1950s through to the 2000s, the issue pays homage to legendary photographers such as Fred McDarrah, Sylvia Plachy, James Hamilton, who made visual history as they captured the zeitgeist emanating from New York’s Greenwich Village. The issue also features cartoons by the likes of Steve Brodner, Ward Sutton, Stephen Kroninger, Stan Mack, Philip Burke, Drew Friedman, Red Nose Studio (Chris Sickel), Lauren Weinstein, and Mark Alan Stamaty.
Rounding out the issue is the triumphant return of the much-beloved Michael Musto, who will contribute a special installment of his “La Dolce Musto” column.
“At the end of the day, it was the people who worked at The Village Voice who transformed the paper into an influential force in journalism, culture, and the city of New York,” said Stephen Mooallem, Editor in Chief of The Village Voice. “Putting those people at the center of this issue somehow felt appropriate.”
As it transitions to digital, the Voice will continue to cover culture and politics with the same depth and rigor for which it is known. The Voice is also developing a variety of new editorial and event initiatives, and will continue to produce the annual Obie Awards as well as the recently-launched Village Voice Pride Awards.
Since its re-launch, The Village Voice’s website has seen double digit month-over-month traffic increases, including a 47% rise in July, according to comScore.
The Village Voice was founded in 1955 by Dan Wolf, Ed Fancher and Norman Mailer, the latter of whom said in an interview that in helping to create the Voice he wanted to make a “revolutionary” paper that would explore “the Village in all its fire.” Over the next six decades, the Voice would go on to produce some of the country’s most profound, poignant, and provocative journalism, earning three Pulitzer Prizes, a National Press Foundation Award, the George Polk Award and the Editor & Publisher EPPY Award for Best Overall U.S. Weekly Newspaper Online.