The Village Voice Rises From the Dead
The Village Voice, the famous New York old weekly that closed in 2018 after 63 years, is alive again.
Brian Calle, the executive director of Street Media, the owner of LA Weekly, said Tuesday that he acquired the publication from its owner, Peter D. Barbey.
“I think a lot of people will be hungry for it and I’m super optimistic,” said Calle in an interview.
He added that he intends to relaunch The Voice’s website in January and have a “comeback” print edition with quarterly print editions early next year. On Tuesday, he hired Bob Baker, a former language editor, to be the senior editor and content coordinator. Mr Calle said he wanted to bring back more former employees who know the tone of the paper. He hasn’t named an editor-in-chief yet.
The Voice, a pillar of the independent journalism scene, was founded in 1955 by Dan Wolf, Edwin Fancher and Norman Mailer. It was the home of dogged investigative reporter Wayne Barrett; jazz critic and freedom of speech columnist Nat Hentoff; the early rock critic Richard Goldstein; the feminist cultural critic Jill Johnston; the nightlife columnist, Michael Musto; and pioneering hip-hop writers Nelson George and Greg Tate.
Generations of New Yorkers found their first homes in their seemingly endless, classified area. The paper thinned over the years as Craigslist cut its revenue and bloggers and early digital websites lost their cultural stance.
In 2015, it was sold by Voice Media Group to Mr. Barbey, an heir to an American retail empire whose family owned The Reading Eagle newspaper in Pennsylvania for generations until 2019. He vowed to revive the newspaper but accepted it digitally in August 2017 and closed a year later.
Mr. Calle said he had watched The Voice for several years and contacted Mr. Barbey to buy the paper in the past few months. “I literally just called him coldly and said, ‘Hey, I’ve been thinking a lot about The Village Voice and a lot about journalism in the context of this year, and I feel like we need to find a way to get it back’ ‘ , he said.
“We had about half a dozen calls and we just talked about The Voice’s story and we got to know each other because he sees himself as a kind of steward and just waiting for someone to come along.”
Mr Barbey said he had been approached by a number of potential owners.
“I originally bought The Village Voice to see if we could save it in another media age,” he said. “Brian called and we talked for a while. After thinking about it, I thought he had the best philosophy on how to get ahead with The Village Voice. “
The terms of the contract were not disclosed. In a press release, Street Media said the acquisition did not include the Obie Awards, the Off Broadway honors that continue to be given by the American Theater Wing.
Mr. Calle has experience running an old weekly newspaper, but his time as editor and executive director at LA Weekly was not without incident. Mr. Calle was formerly an opinion editor at The Orange County Register in California and other newspapers and bought LA Weekly in 2017 with a group of investors from Voice Media Group. (From 2012 to 2017, Voice Media Group owned LA Weekly in addition to its flagship paper in New York.)
The LA Weekly newsroom was quickly gutted after the sale, and former writers boycotted the newspaper, urging advertisers and other journalists to cut ties. Mara Shalhoup, editor-in-chief of LA Weekly, when Mr Calle bought it, said almost all of the newsroom staff were laid off. Ms. Shalhoup, who will start as ProPublica’s South Editor next week, said she felt that LA Weekly wasn’t as focused on serious journalism after being taken over by Mr. Calle.
“I think my opinion is shared by the Los Angeles community of readers,” she said. “It wasn’t the same quality publication after he bought it as it was before.”
In 2018, David Welch, one of the investors, sued Mr. Calle and the other LA Weekly supporters for mismanaging the paper. The lawsuit was settled in 2019.
“This lawsuit has been resolved and we both went our separate ways,” said Mr Calle. Speaking more generally of the critics of LA Weekly under his leadership, he said, “I think the evidence is in the results, that is, we are still here and on the right track.”
He added that the newspaper he bought Tuesday “will honor the traditions of yesterday’s village voice”.
Mr Calle said he plans to start a voice podcast and increase the publication’s social media exposure while looking for new sources of income. He said he also envisioned The Voice would play an important role as Alt-Weeklies: as the mainstream media watchdog.
Since The Voice stopped publishing new content in September 2018, the website has been regularly updated with articles from the archives. Some employees continued to work on building a digital archive. Mr. Calle said he and Mr. Barbey planned to donate The Voice’s print archives to “a major New York public institution” in the coming months.