The Village Voice Shutters After 55 Years
The Village Voice, the long-running New York City newspaper that is almost singlehandedly responsible for launching the alternative weekly format in America, will cease publication as of today. “Today is kind of a sucky day,” owner Peter Barbey told staff in a meeting that was recorded and obtained by Gothamist. “Due to, basically, business realities, we’re going to stop publishing Village Voice new material.” Barbey confirmed the closure in a statement distributed to reporters:
The Voice was founded in 1963 by a group of journalists that included Norman Mailer, and quickly became a sort of house organ for the countercultural scene that was brewing in its namesake downtown neighborhood. It published weekly, with a scrappy editorial sensibility and willingness to cover corners of the city overlooked by its major daily papers. In the years and decades that followed, its model was extremely influential on the alt-weeklies that began cropping up in cities across America: Boston’s Phoenix in 1965, LA Weekly in 1978, Baltimore’s City Paper in 1977 and D.C.’s alt-weekly of the same name in 1981, and many others.
Music criticism was a cornerstone of the Voice’s output. It was the longtime home of Robert Christgau, the self-anointed “Dean of American Rock Critics,” who launched the paper’s “Pazz & Jop” feature in 1971. Pazz & Jop, which tabulated the yearly top 10 albums and singles of music writers at publications across the country, remained an influential critical barometer for well into the 21st century. The paper also published such celebrated music writers as Greg Tate, Kyle Gann, Ann Powers, dream hampton, Sasha Frere-Jones, and others, many of whose careers it helped to launch.
Like many of the alt-weeklies that it inspired, the Voice fell under financial hardship and mismanagement in recent years. It ceased publishing a print edition in 2017. The Voice’s revenue was heavily reliant on traditional classifieds as well as its formerly infamous back pages, offering massage parlor and escort service ads—both of which suffered in the wake of free online alternatives like Craigslist. The paper was purchased in 2005 by a conglomerate of alt-weeklies called New Times Media (later rebranded as Village Voice media), and then in 2015 by Barbey, an heir to a textile and apparel empire whose family Forbes once called one of the richest in America.
According to Gothamist, the Voice’s current staff was about 15 to 20 people. Half of them will stay at the company to “wind things down” and work on an effort to digitize the Voice’s archives, and the other half will be let go today. “I bought the Village Voice to save it, this isn’t exactly how I though it was going to end up,” Barbey said in the meeting, Gothamist reports. “I’m still trying to save the Village Voice.”