The Village Voice, a Mainstay of Independent Journalism Until It Wasn’t, May Live Again

From a New York Times story by Katie Robertson headlined “The Village Voice Rises From the Dead”:

The Village Voice, the storied New York alt-weekly that shut down in 2018 after a 63-year run, will live again.

Brian Calle, the chief executive of Street Media, the owner of LA Weekly, said on Tuesday that he had acquired the publication from its publisher, Peter D. Barbey.

“I think a lot of people will be hungry for this and I’m superoptimistic,” Mr. Calle said in an interview.

He added that he planned to restart The Voice’s website in January and would publish a “comeback” print edition early next year, with quarterly print issues to follow. On Tuesday he hired Bob Baker, a former Voice editor, as a senior editor and content coordinator. Mr. Calle said he wanted to bring back more former staff members who know the paper’s tone. He has not yet named an editor in chief.

The Voice, a mainstay of the independent journalism scene until it wasn’t, was founded in 1955 by Dan Wolf, Edwin Fancher and Norman Mailer. It was home to the dogged investigative reporter Wayne Barrett; the jazz critic and free-speech columnist Nat Hentoff; the early rock critic Richard Goldstein; the feminist cultural critic Jill Johnston; the nightlife columnist Michael Musto; and the groundbreaking hip-hop writers Nelson George and Greg Tate.

Generations of New Yorkers found their first apartments through its seemingly endless classified section. The paper grew thinner over the years, as Craigslist cut into its revenue, and bloggers and early digital sites chipped away at its cultural position.

In 2015 it was sold by the Voice Media Group to Mr. Barbey, an heir to an American retail empire. . . .He vowed to revitalize the paper, but in August 2017 he took it digital only and shuttered it a year later.

Mr. Calle said he had eyed The Voice for several years and got in touch with Mr. Barbey about buying the paper in recent months. “I literally just cold-called him and I said, ‘Hey, I’ve been thinking a lot about The Village Voice and a lot about journalism in the context of this year and I feel like we need to figure out a way to bring it back,’” he said.

“We had roughly half a dozen calls, just talking about the history of The Voice and getting to know each other, because he views himself as a kind of a steward and was just waiting for someone to come along.”. . .

Mr. Calle has experience running an alt-weekly, but his time as publisher and chief executive at LA Weekly has not been without incident. Formerly an opinion editor for The Orange County Register in California and other newspapers, Mr. Calle bought LA Weekly with a group of investors in 2017 from the Voice Media Group. . . .

LA Weekly’s newsroom was quickly gutted after the sale, and former writers organized a boycott of the paper, pressing advertisers and other journalists to cut ties. Mara Shalhoup, the editor in chief of LA Weekly when Mr. Calle bought it, said that nearly the entire newsroom staff was fired. Ms. Shalhoup, who next week will start as ProPublica’s South editor, said she felt LA Weekly was not as focused on serious journalism after the acquisition by Mr. Calle. . . .

In 2018, David Welch, one of the investors, sued Mr. Calle and the other LA Weekly backers, alleging that they had mismanaged the paper. The suit was settled in 2019. . . .

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.

Since The Voice stopped publishing new content in September 2018, the website has been periodically updated with articles pulled from its archives. Some staff members stayed on to work on building a digital archive.

Katie Robertson is a media reporter. She previously worked as an editor and reporter at Bloomberg and News Corporation Australia.

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