Photo (cropped) of the Village Voice’s Cooper Square offices by Ajay Suresh via Wikimedia Commons
In August of 2018, after 63 years as a NYC icon, The Village Voice folded. But in some good news for local journalism, the New York Times reports today that the Voice will “[rise] from the dead.” Brian Calle, chief executive of Street Media which owns LA Weekly, has acquired the publication from its current owner Peter Barbey. Calle said he will start publishing online content next month, with a quarterly print edition set to launch in March. He also said he hopes to re-hire former Voice staffers.
Independent journalism was a rather new field when the Village Voice began in 1955. In fact, it’s considered the country’s first alternative newspaper. Dan Wolf, Ed Fancher, John Wilcock, and Norman Mailer founded the Voice from an apartment in Greenwich Village, which was their original coverage area and the neighborhood that made them famous for covering the beat generation and the downtown creative scene. After expanding their coverage area to greater New York and switching headquarters throughout the Village a few times, the progressive paper landed at Cooper Square in the East Village in 1991.
In more recent years, the Village Voice, like so many other independent publications, changed hands several times, with many controversial staff layoffs. Most recently, Voice Media Group sold the paper to Peter Barbey, then-CEO of the Reading Eagle Company, in 2015. Two years later, Barbey announced that the Voice would end its print publication and publish only online content. The year after that, he announced that it would cease publication. Half the staff was laid off, while the rest was kept on for a limited time to work on archival projects.
Of the recent sale, Barbey told the Wall Street Journal, “Though we were not able to overcome the economic conditions facing the news-media industry, we have since worked tirelessly to ensure that the Village Voice inspires, informs and educates future generations. There may be no one better suited to continuing the Village Voice and preserving its history than Calle.”
The Village Voice’s website is still live, as it currently functions as an archive of publications dating back to its founding. Barbey said that the archiving project is about 90 percent complete and will ultimately be donated to a public institution.
Calle’s plan is to re-launch the Village Voice website in January. He’ll then publish a special “comeback” print issue early in the year, followed by quarterly print editions. The Times details additional plans:
Mr. Calle said he planned to start a Voice podcast and increase the publication’s social media presence while looking for new revenue streams. He said he also envisioned The Voice performing a critical role of alt-weeklies: acting as a watchdog of mainstream media outlets.
As the Journal explains, Calle has “sought to maintain [LA Weekly’s] historical leftist tone and political positions in Los Angeles, something he also plans to do with the Voice.”
Specific details of the sale are not known, but it did not include the Off-Bradway Obie Awards. These will be taken over by co-producer, the American Theater Wing.
As for staff, so far he has hired former Voice editor Bob Baker as a senior editor and content coordinator, with plans to hire more former staffers.
In an email with 6sqft, Andrew Berman, executive director of Village Preservation, a local preservation group that has been documenting the history of the Village for 40 years, said:
In any other year, news of the Village Voice rising from the dead would be a remarkable and unbelievable twist; in 2020, it’s about the least crazy thing to happen. The loss of the Village Voice left a gaping hole in the New York media market. It would be wonderful to see it return to its roots, reporting on the arts, culture, and political scene downtown and throughout New York City. I look at this news as one more sign that, hopefully, 2021 will be a little better than the dumpster fire that was 2020.
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