The Village Voice is an American news and culture paper, known for being the country's first alternative newsweekly. Founded in 1955 by Dan Wolf, Ed Fancher and Norman Mailer, the Voice began as a platform for the creative community of New York City. Since its founding, The Village Voice has received three Pulitzer Prizes, the National Press Foundation Award and the George Polk Award. The Village Voice has hosted a variety of writers and artists, including writer Ezra Pound, cartoonist Lynda Barry, and art critics Robert Christgau, Andrew Sarris, and J. Hoberman. In addition to daily coverage through its website and a weekly print edition that circulates in New York City, the Voice issues a weekly digital edition of its magazine.
In October of 2015, The Village Voice changed ownership and severed all ties with former parent company Voice Media Group (VMG). The Voice announced on August 22, 2017, that it would cease publication of its print edition and convert to a fully digital venture, on a date to be announced. The final printed edition, featuring a 1965 photo of Bob Dylan on the cover, was distributed on September 21, 2017.
The Voice was launched by Ed Fancher, Dan Wolf, John Wilcock, and Norman Mailer on October 26, 1955 from a two-bedroom apartment in Greenwich Village, which was its initial coverage area, expanding to other parts of the city by the 1960s. In the 1960s the offices were located at Sheridan Square; then, from the '70s through 1980, at 11th Street and University Place; and then Broadway and 13th Street. In 1991 they moved to Cooper Square in the East Village, and in 2013, to the Financial District.
Early columnists of the 1950s and 1960s included Jonas Mekas, who explored the underground film movement in his "Film Journal" column; Linda Solomon, who reviewed the Village club scene in the "Riffs" column; and Sam Julty, who wrote a popular column on car ownership and maintenance. John Wilcock wrote a column every week for the paper's first ten years. Another regular from that period was the cartoonist Kin Platt, who did weekly theatrical caricatures. Other prominent regulars have included Peter Schjeldahl, Ellen Willis, Tom Carson, Wayne Barrett, and Richard Goldstein.
The Voice has published investigations of New York City politics, as well as reporting on national politics, with arts, culture, music, dance, film, and theater reviews. Writers for the Voice have received three Pulitzer Prizes: in 1981 (Teresa Carpenter), 1986 (Jules Feiffer) and 2000 (Mark Schoofs). Almost since its inception the paper has recognized alternative theater in New York through its Obie Awards. The paper's "Pazz & Jop" music poll, started by Robert Christgau in the early 1970s, is released annually and remains an influential survey of the nation's music critics. In 1999, film critic J. Hoberman and film section editor Dennis Lim began a similar Village Voice Film Poll for the year in film. In 2001 the paper sponsored its first music festival, Siren Festival, a free annual event every summer held at Coney Island. In 2011, the event moved to the lower tip of Manhattan and re-christened the "4knots Music Festival," a reference to the speed of the East River's current.
Today, the Voice is known for its staunch support for the civil rights of gays, and it publishes an annual Gay Pride issue every June. However, early in its history, the newspaper had a reputation as having an anti-homosexuality slant. While reporting on the Stonewall riots of 1969, the newspaper referred to the riots as "The Great Faggot Rebellion". Two reporters, Smith and Truscott, both used the words "faggot" and "dyke" in their articles about the riots. (These words were not commonly used by homosexuals to refer to each other at this time.) After the riot, the Gay Liberation Front attempted to promote dances for gays and lesbians in the Voice but were not allowed to use the words gay or homosexual, which the newspaper considered derogatory. The newspaper changed their policy after the GLF petitioned the newspaper to do so. Over time, the Voice has changed its stance, and in 1982, the Voice was the second organization in the US known to have extended domestic partner benefits. Jeff Weinstein, an employee of the paper and shop steward for the publishing local of District 65 UAW, negotiated and won agreement in the union contract to extend health, life insurance, and disability benefits to the "spouse equivalents" of its union members.
The paper is mentioned in the musical Rent during the song La Vie Boheme. The line states "To riding your bike midday past the three piece suits, to fruits, to no absolutes; to Absolut; to choice; to The Village Voice, to any passing fad."
Seventeen alternative weeklies around the United States are owned by the Voice's parent company Village Voice Media. In 2005, the Phoenix alternative weekly chain New Times Media purchased the company and took the Village Voice Media name. Previous owners of The Village Voice or of Village Voice Media have included co-founders Fancher and Wolf, New York City Councilman Carter Burden, New York Magazine founder Clay Felker, Rupert Murdoch, and Leonard Stern of the Hartz Mountain empire.
Acquisition by New Times Media
In April 2006, the Voice dismissed music editor Chuck Eddy. Four months later the newspaper fired longtime music critic Robert Christgau. In January 2007, the newspaper fired sex columnist and erotica author Rachel Kramer Bussel; long-term creative director Ted Keller, art director Minh Oung, fashion columnist Lynn Yeager and Deputy Art Director LD Beghtol were laid off or fired soon after. Editor in chief Donald Forst resigned in December 2005. Doug Simmons, his replacement, was fired in March 2006 after it was discovered that a reporter had fabricated portions of an article. Simmons' successor, Erik Wemple, resigned after two weeks. His replacement, David Blum, was fired in March 2007. Tony Ortega then held the position of editor in chief from 2007 to 2012.
The firing of Nat Hentoff, who worked for the paper from 1958 to 2008, led to further criticism of the management by some of its current writers, Hentoff himself, and by the Voice's ideological rival paper National Review, which referred to Hentoff as a "treasure". At the end of 2011, Wayne Barrett, who had written for the paper since 1973, was laid off. Fellow muckraking investigative reporter Tom Robbins then resigned in solidarity.
Voice Media Group
In September 2012, Village Voice Media executives Scott Tobias, Christine Brennan and Jeff Mars bought Village Voice Media's papers and associated web properties from its founders and formed Voice Media Group.
In May 2013, The Village Voice editor Will Bourne and deputy editor Jessica Lustig told The New York Times that they were quitting the paper rather than executing further staff layoffs. Both had been recent hires. The Voice has gone through five editors since 2005. Following Bourne's and Lustig's departure, Village Media Group management fired three of the Voice's longest-serving contributors: gossip and nightlife columnist Michael Musto, restaurant critic Robert Sietsema, and theater critic Michael Feingold, all of whom had been writing for the paper for decades.
In July 2013, Voice Media Group executives named Tom Finkel as editor.
Current ownership and construction
In October 2015, Peter Barbey, through the privately-owned investment company Black Walnut Holdings LLC, purchased The Village Voice from Voice Media Group. Barbey is a member of one of America's wealthiest families. The family has had ownership interest in the Reading Eagle, a daily newspaper serving the city of Reading, Pennsylvania and the surrounding region, for many years. Barbey serves as president and CEO of the Reading Eagle Company and holds the same roles at The Village Voice. After taking over ownership of the Voice, Barbey named Joe Levy, formerly of Rolling Stone, as interim editor in chief and Suzan Gursoy, formerly of Ad Week, as publisher. In December 2016, Barbey named Stephen Mooallem, formerly of Harper's Bazaar, as editor in chief.
The Voice's competitors in New York City include New York Observer and Time Out New York. In 1996, after decades of carrying a cover price, the Voice switched from a paid weekly to a free, alternative weekly. The Voice website was a recipient of the National Press Foundation’s Online Journalism Award in 2001 and the Editor & Publisher EPpy Award for Best Overall U.S. Newspaper Online Service – Weekly, Community, Alternative & Free in 2003.
The film section writers and editors also produce a weekly Voice Film Club podcast.
The Voice has published columns and works by many well-known writers, including Ezra Pound, Henry Miller, Barbara Garson, Katherine Anne Porter, staff writer and author M.S. Cone, James Baldwin, E.E. Cummings, Nat Hentoff, staff writer and author Ted Hoagland, William Bastone of thesmokinggun.com, Colson Whitehead, Nelson George, Greg Tate, Barry Cooper, Peter Noel, Tom Stoppard, Lorraine Hansberry, Lester Bangs, Catholic activist and author Thomas E. Byers, Allen Ginsberg and Joshua Clover. Former editors have included Clay Felker and Tom Morgan.
The newspaper has also been a host to underground cartoonists. In addition to mainstay Jules Feiffer, whose cartoon ran for decades in the paper until its cancellation in 1996, well-known cartoonists featured in the paper have included R. Crumb, Matt Groening, Lynda Barry, Stan Mack, Mark Alan Stamaty, Ted Rall, Tom Tomorrow, Ward Sutton, Ruben Bolling and M. Wartella.