Journalists can be nostalgic people, especially
seasoned pros. They have witnessed
the radical changes in media. They remember when everyone picked up the newspaper at their front door -- or passed magazines around with friends.
Not all survived the changes brought about by the internet. Print publications shut down as print advertising declined. Other pubs struggled to stay afloat — only to be gobbled up by bigger media publishers.
The Village Voice’s legendary print edition is another casualty of the times. Simone Wilson wrote what can only be called an obituary for the paper on New York City’s Patch site.
HuffPost contributor and literature professor Anne Margaret Daniel described herself clutching the last Voice print issue while sitting on a park bench in the West Village after midnight and crying.
“The tears were for the last print issue of a weekly newspaper I have valued and read above and before all others since I moved to New York City — and before then, when I could get my hands on a copy. The Voice’s journalism was, in the 1970s and 1980s, beyond question or criticism from young me, at least,” she wrote.
MediaPost's editor-in-chief, Joe Mandese, felt similarly about the paper’s significance in his youth. He wrote in an op-ed: “As a young New Yorker growing up in the '70s, it was one of my most influential sources of media, and in a significant way, helped shaped my views of the media marketplace.”
In The Indypendent, Steven Wishnia called the end of the Voice’s printed newspaper “a tragedy for the city.”
Founded in 1955 by Norman Mailer, Dan Wolf and Ed Fancher, the Voice was an incubator for iconic writers and photographers, like Wayne Barrett, Michael Musto, Robert Christgau, Lucian Truscott IV, Fred McDarrah and Sylvia Plachy. It was one of the first alt-weeklies to make an impact, covering a mix of progressive and offbeat news, investigative features and the arts.
“It told us where to go on weekends for the best music, what the new restaurants were, how to clean sex toys, what new books were good, when the Bronx Zoo was open, who the Yankees were playing and why it mattered,” Daniel wrote.
The Voice covered everything from the corruption of Edward Koch’s administration to a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigation into a murder at the Playboy mansion. The New Yorker has a great story about its history, and we reported the news of its print product shutting down here.
So who or what do journalists blame for the demise of the printed Voice?
Daniel wrote, “I hate to think the internet killed the print edition of the Village Voice this week, but that is the truth.”
Wishnia agreed: “The internet and concentration of ownership decimated alternative weeklies."
But he added the audience the Voice was written for — “bohemian and educated enough to go to foreign films or catch Cecil Taylor at the Knitting Factory or Patti Smith at the St. Marks Poetry Project, and who also cared about politics and could afford to buy unfinished bookcases and platform beds” — had “gradually disappeared as Manhattan gentrified.”
Alex Neason noted in an article on CJR that the last issue’s cover — featuring a young Bob Dylan saluting — reveals how out of touch the print product was.
“In the nine months since Donald Trump was sworn in as president, the Voice has released just four hard-news cover stories—a misstep during a never-ending news cycle focused primarily on a story (Trump) the Voice had been hip to for, quite literally, decades,” she wrote.
The eulogies for the Voice in op-eds and on Twitter may come off dramatic, considering the publication will continue to live online.
But Daniel lambasts the change: “We spend too much time with our glowing laptops and their QWERTY boards. I loved my Voice, and the way I liked to read it. And I will miss it more than I can say.”
Wishnia echoed Daniel’s woe: “People’s attention spans, and arguably the way their brains process information, are different on a screen, snipping quick bits off the chyron instead of slowing down to concentrate on a long-form story with nuance and detail.”
As Voice veteran and investigative journalist Tom Robbins famously told staff at his farewell party: “Newspapers will break your heart."
But it’s not over yet.
Peter D. Barbey, the Village Voice's owner, reminded readers in a statement: “The most powerful thing about the Voice wasn’t that it was printed on newsprint or that it came out every week. 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.”