The Village Voice to end its run in print

After nearly 62 years, The Village Voice will continue as an online-only publication.
After nearly 62 years, The Village Voice will continue as an online-only publication.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

NEW YORK • The Village Voice, the alternative weekly newspaper co-founded by Norman Mailer and known for its culture coverage and investigative reporting, said on Tuesday that it will end its print version and continue as an online-only publication.

Mr Peter Barbey, who purchased the newspaper from Voice Media Group in 2015, said in a statement the move is part of media's migration to the Internet and that its readers now expect "a range of media, from words and pictures to podcasts, video, and even other forms of print publishing".

The exact date of the last print edition has not yet been finalised, a spokesman said.

In recent years, many of the writers most associated with The Village Voice, including muckraking columnist Wayne Barrett, music critic Nat Hentoff and gossip columnist Michael Musto, have either died or been pushed out of the paper.

The print pages of the newspaper were a place to discover philosopher Jacques Derrida or phone sex services, to hone one's antipathy to authority or gentrification, to score authoritative judgments about what was in New York's jazz clubs or off-off-Broadway theatres on a Wednesday night.

In the latter part of the last century, before Sex And The City, it was where many New Yorkers learnt to be New Yorkers.

But the printed paper was also an artefact of a downtown world that no longer exists.

The Village Voice was founded in 1955 by editor Dan Wolf, psychologist Ed Fancher and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Mailer and, for decades, it sold a weekly version thick with classified ads.

Its mix of political and cultural coverage created a model for alternative weeklies around the country, many of which have since folded.

In 1996, facing competition from publications such as Time Out New York, it changed to free distribution to boost circulation numbers, but gradually, it came to rely on advertisements for sex and escort services for revenue.

Under its current ownership, the paper eliminated sex advertising and increased its print distribution to 120,000 copies.

The print paper fostered the careers of such journalistic luminaries as investigative reporters Jack Newfield and James Ridgeway, and music critics Lester Bangs, Ellen Willis and Greg Tate.

It was the launchpad for The New Yorker theatre critic Hilton Als and novelist Colson Whitehead, both recipients of the Pulitzer Prize.

In his statement, Mr Barbey noted that when The Voice converted to a free weekly, "Craigslist was in its infancy, Google and Facebook weren't yet glimmers in the eyes of their founders, and alternative weeklies - and newspapers everywhere - were still packed with classified advertising".

The newspaper business has moved online, he wrote, and so has The Voice's audience, "which expects us to do what we do not just once a week, but every day, across a range of media".

This summer, The Voice redesigned its website and has since reported an increase in audience traffic.

"The most powerful thing about The Voice wasn't that it was printed on newsprint or that it came out every week," Mr Barbey said in a statement.

"It was that The Village Voice was alive, and that it changed in step with and reflected the times and the ever-evolving world around it. I want The Village Voice brand to represent that for a new generation of people - and for generations to come."

On Tuesday, readers of the newspaper lamented the news on Twitter and Facebook.

But in The Village itself, around the paper's Cooper Square offices, word of the print edition's demise was more often met with a shrug. Print?

"You have Uber killing the taxi business, are you going to lose sleep over The Village Voice?" said Mr Paul Vezza, 60, the third-generation owner of Astor Place Hairstylists. "No."

He recalled a time when people used to come in for fresh copies of The Voice on publication day. These days, a pile sits largely untouched every week, he said.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 24, 2017, with the headline 'The Village Voice to end its run in print'. Print Edition | Subscribe