Troubles are growing for New York City’s venerable “alternative” weekly newspaper, The Village Voice. With multiple layoffs, ad revenue at an all-time low, and resignations by key staffers over the paper’s management, the 58-year-old publication is coming to what one commenter is calling “the end times.”
In a show of protest, the paper’s top two editors resigned rather than initiate a new wave of layoffs. On May 23, editor Will Bourne and deputy editor Jessica Lustig both quit the paper. Bourne had only been at his post for about 7 months.
The pair said they resigned over plans by the publishers to further reduce the paper’s staff. According to The New York Times, Bourne was told to lay off five of the remaining 20 Village Voice staffers.
We are both leaving because I was summoned to a meeting and asked to get rid of five people, and we are on a short string already. When I was brought in here, I was explicitly told that the bloodletting had come to an end. I have enormous respect for the staff here and the work they have been doing, and I am not going to preside over further layoffs.
The owner of the paper, Voice Media Group, disputed Bourne’s characterization of the changes in staff. The publishers said they were reorganizing but would do so with “minimal staff reductions.”
The company announced that its blogs editor, Pete Kotz, would temporarily take the editor’s chair during this newest round of reorganizing.
This is only the latest bout of layoffs at the Voice. Earlier this month, the paper laid off Michael Musto, one of its most well-known writers. Musto started with the paper in 1984. The paper also eliminated food writer Robert Sietsema and theater critic Michael Feingold. At the same time, the paper’s last food writer, Tejal Rao, resigned in protest.
Alex Ashe reports that the mass turnovers have “disheartened the paper’s remaining staff” and evoked a “dour mood” in the news room.
“By releasing esteemed, long-tenured writers in favor of cheaper alternatives, the Voice has trivialized its content, as well as its writers’ achievements and loyalty,” Ashe wrote. “While its bottom line is undeniably crucial, the paper has sent the wrong message to its staff, who have now witnessed the industry’s ceiling firsthand.”