October 1955 cover
|Format||Tabloid / Alternative weekly|
|Owner||Village Voice Media|
|Headquarters||36 Cooper Square
New York, NY 10003
The Village Voice is a free weekly newspaper in New York City, United States featuring investigative articles, analysis of current affairs and culture, arts reviews and events listings for New York City. It is also distributed throughout the United States on a pay basis.
It was the first and is arguably the best known of the arts-oriented tabloids that have come to be known as alternative weeklies, though its reputation has been unstable since a recent buyout by publishing conglomerate New Times Media. The turbulent times its writers have covered has often been matched by the intrigue in its own offices, most recently including the firing of several high-profile contributors and a scandal over a fabricated story in 2005, the year the paper turned 50. The Voice's spirit can be captured in its 1980s advertising slogan: "Some people swear by us...other people swear AT us."
The Voice was launched by Ed Fancher, Dan Wolf, and Norman Mailer on October 26, 1955 from a two-bedroom apartment in Greenwich Village, which was its initial coverage area, expanding to other parts of the city by the 1960s. The offices in the 1960s were located at Sheridan Square; they are now at Cooper Square in the East Village.
Early in its history the newspaper had a reputation as having an anti-homosexual slant. When reporting on the Stonewall riots of 1969, the newspaper referred to the riots as "The Great Faggot Rebellion". Two reporters, Smith and Truscott, both used the words 'faggot' and 'dyke' in their articles about the riots. (These words were not commonly used by homosexuals to refer to each other at this time.) After the riot, the Gay Liberation Front attempted to promote dances for gays and lesbians and were not allowed to use the words gay or homosexual which the newspaper considered derogatory. The newspaper changed their policy after the GLF petitioned the Voice to do so.
The Voice has published groundbreaking investigations of New York City politics, as well as reporting on local and national politics, with arts, culture, music, dance, film, and theater reviews. The Voice has received three Pulitzer Prizes, in 1981 (Teresa Carpenter), 1986 (Jules Feiffer) and 2000 (Mark Schoofs). Almost since its inception the paper has recognized alternative theater in New York through its Obie Awards. From the early 1970s to 2005, music critic Robert Christgau ran a highly influential music poll, known as "Pazz & Jop", every February from the "top ten" lists, submitted by music critics from around the country. In 1999, film critic J. Hoberman and film section editor Dennis Lim began a similar Village Voice Film Poll for the year's movies. In 2001 the paper sponsored its first Siren Festival indie rock festival, a free annual event every summer held at Coney Island.
The Voice has published many well-known writers, including Ezra Pound, Henry Miller, Barbara Garson, Katherine Anne Porter, M.S.Cone, staff writer and author, James Baldwin, E.E. Cummings, Nat Hentoff, Ted Hoagland, Tom Stoppard, Lorraine Hansberry, Allen Ginsberg and Joshua Clover. Former editors have included Clay Felker and Tom Morgan.
Early columnists of the 1950s and 1960s included Jonas Mekas, who explored the underground film movement in his "Film Journal" column; Linda Solomon, who reviewed the Village club scene in the "Riffs" column; and Sam Julty, who wrote a popular column on car ownership and maintenance. Another regular from that period was the cartoonist Kin Platt, who did weekly theatrical caricatures. Other prominent regulars have included Peter Schjeldahl, Ellen Willis, Tom Carson, Wayne Barrett, and Richard Goldstein. Also in 1970, a team of two 19-year-old aspiring writers, who were attempting to attract attention, Daniel Simone and Domnick Forte, a pair of hardline radicals and public insurgents of anti-Vietnam government policies, sporadically contributed with their rants against the administration of President Lyndon B. Johnson.
The newspaper has also been a host to promising underground cartoonists. In addition to mainstay Jules Feiffer, whose cartoon ran for decades in the paper until its cancellation in 1996, well-known cartoonists featured in the paper have included R. Crumb, Matt Groening, Lynda Barry, Stan Mack, Mark Alan Stamaty, Ted Rall, Tom Tomorrow, Ward Sutton, Ruben Bolling and currently M. Wartella.
The Voice is also known for containing adult content, including sex advice columns and many pages of advertising for "adult services" (i.e., escorts, prostitutes, etc.). This content is located at the back of the newspaper.
The Voice is also locally known for being the place where most hard rock or jazz concerts are announced, sometimes with full page paid ads. Most groups visiting New York advertise in the Voice for publicity. Most venues in NYC advertise their concerts in The Village Voice.
The Voice's competitors in New York City include the New York Press, New York Observer and Time Out New York. In 1996, after decades of carrying a cover price, the Voice responded to competition from the free New York Press by itself becoming free of charge on newsstands in the five boroughs. (It still carries a charge for home/mail delivery and for newsstands outside the city limits, such as on Long Island.) Its circulation as of June 2006 was 247,417.
The Voice’s web site is a past winner of both the National Press Foundation’s Online Journalism Award (2001) and the Editor & Publisher EPpy Award for Best Overall U.S. Newspaper Online Service – Weekly, Community, Alternative & Free (2003).
The Voice was the second organization in the US known to have extended domestic partner benefits, in July 1982. Jeff Weinstein, an employee of the paper and shop steward for the publishing local of District 65 UAW, negotiated and won agreement in the union contract to extend health, life insurance, and disability benefits to the "spouse equivalents" of its union members.
Seventeen alternative weeklies around the United States are owned by the Voice's parent company Village Voice Media. In 2005, the Phoenix alternative weekly chain New Times Media purchased the company and took the Village Voice Media name. Previous owners of the Village Voice or of Village Voice Media have included co-founders Fancher and Wolf, New York City Councilman Carter Burden, New York Magazine founder Clay Felker, Rupert Murdoch, and Leonard Stern of the Hartz Mountain empire.
The paper is referenced in the musical Rent during the song La Vie Boheme. The line goes: "To riding your bike midday past the three piece suits, to fruits, to no absolutes; to Absolut; to choice; to The Village Voice, to any passing fad."
Since the buyout, the paper has made a number of broad-sweeping changes, becoming an increasingly mainstream publication. The Village Voice is now managed by two journalists from Phoenix, Arizona, and some New York media critics perceive a loss of the paper's original iconoclastic, bohemian spirit.
In April 2006, the Voice dismissed music editor Chuck Eddy. Four months later the newspaper fired longtime music critic Robert Christgau. In January 2007, the newspaper fired sex columnist and erotica author Rachel Kramer Bussel; long-term creative director Ted Keller, art director Minh Oung, fashion columnist Lynn Yeager and Deputy Art Director LD Beghtol were laid off/fired soon after.
The paper has experienced high turnover among its editorial leadership since 2005. Editor-in-chief Don Forst resigned in December 2005. Doug Simmons, his replacement, was fired in March 2006 after it was discovered a reporter had fabricated portions of an article. Simmons' successor, Erik Wemple, resigned after two weeks. His replacement, David Blum, was fired in March 2007. As of April 2007, Tony Ortega, former editor of the Broward-Palm Beach New Times, is editor.
In December 2008, The New York Times reported that the situation grew so strained that half of its entire staff was gone. One still employed writer remarked about the Voice's management, saying, "they don’t seem to be able to sit there and just talk about them with their own work force to deal with these problems".
The firing of Nat Hentoff, who worked for the paper from 1958 to 2008, led to further criticism of the management by some of its current writers, Hentoff himself, and even by the Voice's ideological rival paper National Review (which referred to Hentoff as a "treasure"). Executive editor Richard Goldstein, a Voice writer since 1966, worked for the paper until 2004.