Village Voice, the original alt-weekly, officially dead
The Village Voice, the first alternative weekly newspaper that began publishing in 1955, will no longer be posting any new stories.
The paper stopped publishing a print edition a year ago, only being available online. Owner Peter Barbey announced to the staff yesterday that "business realities" were forcing him to close shop completely.
Barbey said that half of the staff, which is around 15 to 20 people, will remain on to "wind things down," and work on a project to archive the Voice's material online.
The rest of the staff will be let go today.
"I bought the Village Voice to save it; this isn't exactly how I thought it was going to end up. I'm still trying to save the Village Voice," Barbey told the staff.
He also praised them for doing important work: "You had amazing grit, to remain professional in doing what you're doing and hanging in there to the end."
If you have an urge to shrug your shoulders and say, "So what?" or "Good riddance," you're not off base. In one sense, the death of the Village Voice is just another incident in the downward spiral we've been seeing the last decade for print publications, especially for liberal media outlets.
"Creative destruction" is a good thing, and the stark "business realities" that forced the Village Voice out of business are part of the life cycle of any company in the free market system. Perhaps nothing can stop the slide into oblivion for traditional newspapers, any more than blacksmiths or wheelwrights could have halted the deaths of their own industries.
But along with the idea that publications like the Village Voice are going the way of the dodo, some sort of acknowledgement of what we are losing should be made as well.
Is anyone really pleased with the "corporate journalism" we see today? The Village Voice has always been left-wing, but it used to be that you could read the liberal columnists in that publication and not have your head explode from anger and frustration. Some of the best writers of any ideological stripe got their start at the Village Voice, and where they might have been wrong about a lot of things, they were at least rational about it. A well formed argument was, at one time, the accepted standard for publications left and right. Not anymore, of course. There are few "arguments" today – only rants and name-calling.
Alternatives to corporate media are few and far between. Few will support truly "independent" journalism, which is why almost all independent voices are on the web and not arriving at your doorstep every morning. This is progress? I am old-fashioned and traditional, so I feel more keenly what we are losing when publications like the Village Voice go under.
Losing another liberal newspaper is not a tragedy. Losing what it used to represent is.