The Pulitzer prize-winning New York alternative weekly is going out of business because of intractable financial problems
01 September 2018 | Edward Helmore | The Guardian
The Village Voice, New York’s Pulitzer prize-winning alternative weekly known for its muckraking investigations, brash political reporting, exhaustive arts criticism and anxiety-laden cartoons, is going out of business after 63 years. Last night, New York cultural figures, among them the guitarist Lenny Kaye, came out to salute the publication’s passing.
The paper’s publisher, Peter Barbey, announced on Friday that the pioneering paper is ceasing publication entirely because of financial problems, a year after it stopped circulating in print.
“This is a sad day for The Village Voice and for millions of readers,” he said in a statement, released after the closure was announced to the newsroom staff.
The Voice’s second, digital death comes three years after Barbey, publisher of a regional Pennsylvania paper, bought the storied publication in the hope of rescuing it from years of management turmoil, circulation and advertising losses that had reduced the original ledger of the counter culture to a condition of grave infirmity.
Barbey tried to stem its losses by abandoning the Voice’s print edition last summer and publishing only online – a move that removed the paper from the sidewalk distribution boxes that were a fixture on New York street corners for generations.
But the switch to digital, as other publications have found, left a publication founded in 1955 by a group of investors including writer Norman Mailer, untethered to the physical world and still incapable of staunching the financial bleeding.
Barbey said on Friday that his optimism that the Voice could be saved was no more than an illusion. “Where stability for our business is, we do not know yet,” he said. “The only thing that is clear now is that we have not reached that destination.”
The company said it would retain eight of its 18 remaining staff to ensure that the publications’ six decades in production would continue to exist online as testament “to one of this city’s and this country’s social and cultural treasures”.
The Voice was the country’s first alternative news weekly and once had a weekly circulation of 250,000. Along the way, it received three Pulitzers and became known as home for some of New York’s best investigative journalists.
But it was most admired for its cultural criticism and as a beacon for bohemian life centered around New York’s Greenwich Village. The Voice became widely admired for the music criticism of Robert Christgau and Greil Marcus, who last week published Real Life Rock Top 10: Memories of Aretha, a typically esoteric ramble through the outer reaches of pop culture.
Among the young writers drawn to the intellectual milieu of the Village Voice was Lenny Kaye, periodic music critic and guitarist with the Patti Smith group. Reached yesterday evening, Kaye told the Guardian that the final loss of the Voice meant that a period in New York history had now truly passed.
“For a time in 1950s, the 1960s and the 1970s, the Voice was the only voice of the counter-culture. It was a window into an alternative universe that became our universe. In its time it was almost the sole arbiter of culture and taste for the arts, progressive politics and the lifestyle that came attached with them.”
Kaye, who met Smith in 1971 when she tracked him down to a New York record store after reading an article he’d written in Jazz And Pop magazine, said the Voice and its counterpart, The East Village Other, was where they learned about what was going on “not only in New York, but happenings that were going on under the radar across the country.”
It was also where Smith and Kaye found their rhythm guitar player Ivan Krall and where they advertised their upcoming gigs.
The Voice was also at the center of LGBTQ movement early on, a home to gay writers and a consistent promoter of gay advocacy, whether campaigning for same-sex marriage rights or reviewing gay porn.
It was the first publication to bring the story of Brandon Teena, the 21-year-old transgender man murdered in Nebraska 1993, whose life later became the subject of the film Boys Don’t Cry, to a wider audience.
But despite being at the journalistic center of sixties protest, the paper still sent two heterosexual reporters to cover the gay uprising at the Stonewall Inn in 1969, widely regarded as the birthplace of the gay liberation movement, who in their copy attributed the disturbances to the “forces of faggotry”.
“We didn’t even get to cover our own riot,” noted gay activist and professor Martin Duberman said years later.
But in 1994, Allen Ginsberg contributed to a special issue celebrating Stonewall 25 years on.
The Voice was also known for its punchy investigative reporting, often quality of life issues affecting residents of the city, but also on issues far beyond its reaches.
In 2000, Mark Schoofs won a Pulitzer prize for his reporting on the Aids crisis in Sub-Saharan Africa. Another was won by Jules Feiffer for editorial cartooning in 1986, and a third, for feature writing, was won by Teresa Carpenter in 1981 for Murder on a Day Pass, an account of the murder of a Playboy magazine playmate, Dorothy Stratten.
The closure of the Village Voice comes as the economics of publishing have decimated New York’s free, alternative paper market and the daily tabloid businesses.
Original Link: The Village Voice ceases publication after 63 years
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