by Alex Ashe

News and views from inside the media bubble


If these aren’t the end times, I fear what those might look like. The country’s pioneering alt-weekly, New York City’s Village Voice, has experienced sharp decreases in ad revenue, circulation and staff in recent years. As the paper continues efforts to keep its head above water, a turnoverfilled May has perhaps sounded the paper’s figurative demise, suggesting that its literal end may come sooner than later.

On May 9, the Voice’s parent company, Voice Media Group, informed editors of its plan to restructure the paper, which involved further staff cuts. Upon hearing the plans, Editor in Chief Will Bourne and Deputy Editor Jessica Lustig immediately resigned in protest, leaving the paper in the midst of publishing the next week’s issue. Bourne, who became the Voice’s sixth EIC since 2005 when he accepted the position in November 2012, told the New York Times that he was asked to lay off five of the paper’s 20 staff members.

The chopping block came into play on May 17 when the paper parted ways with its most recognizable writer, columnist Michael Musto, whose work had been a staple of the Voice since 1984. The publication additionally laid off theater critic Michael Feingold and food writer Robert Sietsema. That day, Voice Media Group confirmed the cuts in a statement that also referred to their search for a full-time staff writer and freelance contributors for their expanded food coverage. On Monday, the paper’s last remaining food critic, Tejal Rao, resigned.

The mass turnover has disheartened the paper’s remaining staff, whose mood Musto has described as “dour.” By releasing esteemed, long-tenured writers in favor of cheaper alternatives, the Voice has trivialized its content, as well as its writers’ achievements and loyalty. While its bottom line is undeniably crucial, the paper has sent the wrong message to its staff, who have now witnessed the industry’s ceiling firsthand.