The Village Voice bids adieu to New York City and the Nation
by Suresh Hanubal
Since the mid-1950s, the Village Voice has provided an alternative, local voice to residents of New York City. However, as of last Friday August 31st, 2018, this venerable institution has officially been shut down.
The Village Voice’s issues began in much the same manner as the problems plaguing newspapers in cities across North America. Since the mass adoption of the Internet in the late 1990s and early 2000s people (especially young people) have increasingly turned to the web for their source of information. This has been a boon for ordinary citizens, as information can now be found at the tip of one’s fingertips, completely free. However, it has had a devastating impact on papers from Halifax to Houston.
Since the 1990s nearly two-thirds of all newspapers and dailies in the United States have had to shut down due to declining readership and revenue. In this near apocalyptic environment for the print media it should come as no surprise that The Village Voice has had to shut down.
Over its’ 63 year history the Voice has covered everything from the Stonewall Protests in the late 1960s to New York City’s increasingly decrepit subways over the past several years. It has addressed local concerns that other papers’ have been either neglected or scared to cover.
In its early days in the 1950s and 1960s, the Voice served as a true alternative and hyperlocal journal. It’s initial coverage area was just the Lower Manhattan neighborhood of Greenwich Village. Today, this district of the city is heavily gentrified, and perhaps most well known as the home of New York University (NYU). However, at the time of the Voice’s founding this area was very different. It served as the home to the gay community, artists, and bohemians in general. All the “freaks” of the period congregated in the Village, and The Voice was there to cover everything they did. Their writers covered the districts film, theatre, bar, and music scenes.
As time went on, the paper (not this one!) broadened its scope somewhat and began to cover New York City as a whole. Wayne Barrett, a writer for the Voice for almost half a century, did fantastic investigative reports into NYC’s business and political elite. Of particular interest to us today, Barrett wrote several pieces on current president and Fordham attendee Donald Trump.
Barrett and the rest of the Voice’s incredible investigative team, including Pulitzer Prize winner Mark Schoofs, uncovered shady dealings in NYC over the course of decades. Specifically, the Voice exposed Mayor Ed Koch’s’ (1978 – 1989) cozy relationship with corrupt and near criminal elements in the Democratic Party, as well as Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s (1994 – 2001) anti-crime policies, and so-called “broken-windows policing”.
As a paper based in the Village, the Voice has always had a heavy emphasis and focus on LGBT+ rights. Or did it? In fact, until the 1970s the journal actually wasn’t as pro-gay as its reputation may suggest. A Voice headline from after the Stonewall protests reads, “The Great F****t Rebellion”. Although for the 1960s this headline is not particularly malicious, it still does at least somewhat contradict the papers reputation for tolerance. Thankfully, in the years following Stonewall The Voice grew ever more comfortable with supporting LGBT+ rights. In 1982 they became only the second employer in American history to offer benefits to homosexual employees and their partners. As a publication located in the Village they also helped advance the cause of gay rights in a myriad of other ways throughout the 1980s. Throughout the decade, the Voice gave its readers an inside look into the suffering of HIV/AIDS victims. Even then, Greenwich Village was a haven for LGBTQ people in the United States. Therefore, the publication’s proximity to the district practically placed it on the frontlines of the AIDS crisis. In recent years, the Voice has also done substantive reporting on the movement to legalize Same-Sex marriage nationwide as well as local LGBTQ issues in both lower Manhattan and the greater New York City era.
Starting in the mid-aughts the journal began to face intense scrutiny over it’s management. With frequent ownership changes, New Times Media, The Voice Media Group, and businessman Peter Barbey all ran the publication in quick succession from 2005-2015, the paper began to lose some of its earlier allure. In addition, the Voice lost many of its most important contributors during this period. Specifically, long time writers Wayne Barrett, Chuck Eddy, and Michael Musto left during this troubled decade for the paper.
As stated earlier, the recession and widespread adoption of the internet did not help matters. In 2015, the Village Voice was purchased by businessman Peter Barbey. He attempted to right the ship by installing industry experts in key positions in the papers management team. Sadly however, this proved to only forestall the inevitable outcome.
On August 31st, 2018, the Village Voice shut down indefinitely. For 63 years it has provided a voice for the marginalized and spoken truth to the powerful and corrupt. As American print media continues to decline over the coming years, those of us who care about an independent and vigilant media should remain vigilant and attempt to slow the fall. For if we don’t try to stop the closure of local news outlets, how can we ever hope to continue make our voices heard and the powerful honest?