Village Voice, legendary alt-weekly, dead after 62-year run

Plastic newspaper boxes for The Village Voice stand along a Manhattan sidewalk on Nov. 27, 2013. Village Voice publisher Peter Barbey announced on Aug. 31, 2018, that the venerable alternative weekly will cease publication. The announcement comes three years after Barbey bought the paper and one year after it ceased publishing in print. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

(Courthouse News) The seminal “alternative weekly,” the Village Voice created a new genre of U.S. journalism and publishing that endured for more than six decades before the institution finally shut down on Friday.

“This is a sad day for The Village Voice and for millions of readers,” publisher Peter Barbey said in a statement, first published by the paper’s former editor Christopher Robbins on Gothamist. “The Voice has been a key element of New York City journalism and is read around the world. As the first modern alternative newspaper, it literally defined a new genre of publishing.”

Since its first printing in October 1955, the Voice quickly became synonymous with the journalistic and artistic vanguard. Novelist Norman Mailer, one of the paper’s four co-founders, had been one of the key figures in the “new journalism” movement privileging literary innovation over objectivity and subjective storytelling over the dispassionate recitation of the facts.

Originally headquartered in New York’s West Village, the Voice attracted writers and artists living in what had been known as a creative and bohemian mecca, and through much of its publishing life, the paper’s coverage called attention to trends in film, theater and literature that traditional publications tended to ignore. Mainstream acceptance followed critical accolades, with Voice reporters winning two Pulitzer Prizes in the 1980s and another in 2000.

As Barbey alluded to in his statement, the paper’s financial struggles became more pronounced into the new millennium. Media conglomerate New Times Media began what purists saw as the creeping commercialization of a publication founded upon rebellion.

“In recent years, the Voice has been subject to the increasingly harsh economic realities facing those creating journalism and written media,” said Barbey, whose family is ranked 48th wealthiest in the United States. “Like many others in publishing, we were continually optimistic that relief was around the corner. Where stability for our business is, we do not know yet. The only thing that is clear now is that we have not reached that destination.”

Also the owner of the Reading Eagle newspaper and an A.M. radio station, Barbey said he bought the Voice three years ago in order to save it. The paper had been through a different owner by then, Voice Media Group, that had laid off many of its star reporters, contributors, cartoonists and critics.

Under Barbey’s stewardship, the bloodletting continued. The print edition ceased publication last year, and the paper’s staff had been reduced to a crew of between 15 and 20 people. Gothamist reported that half will wind down operations, and the rest have lost their jobs.