The Village Voice, the legendary New York alternative weekly, is shutting down seemingly for good, a year after it ended its print edition to go online-only. Gothamist reported that Peter Barbey, whose billionaire family owns Pennsylvania newspaper The Reading Eagle as well as a clothing empire and who bought the company three years ago, told the publication’s staff the decision on Friday. “Today is kind of a sucky day,” Barbey reportedly said, blaming “business realities.” Half of the staff, which is 15 to 20 people, are expected to keep working for an indefinite period of time to close the paper and set up its archives, while the rest have lost their jobs.
This closure is hardly surprising. The economic struggles familiar to legacy print publications have plagued the Voice for years—declining revenue, management turnover, layoffs and departures of longtime writers, and so on. The Voice’s recent troubles—and now, its closure—are all the more upsetting for readers and those working in journalism to watch because of just how storied the paper’s history is. The Voice was founded in 1955, and though there is widespread disagreement about exactly what constitutes its golden age, the strong feelings all around speak to what an important publication it once was. As the New York Times put it last year, “In the latter part of the last century, before ‘Sex and the City,’ it was where many New Yorkers learned to be New Yorkers.”
Over the years, the paper’s ownership changed hands many times, from Rupert Murdoch to Clay Felker to New Times Media to Voice Media Group. Its most recent incarnation began in 2015 with Barbey’s purchase. “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 reportedly said at the staff meeting on Friday. He praised the work the staff continued to do in its final years and indicated that he is still part of discussions about what could happen next.
“I’ve been having conversations with other entities for months now,” Barbey said. “This is something we have to do—for some of them this is something we’d have to do before they could talk to us any further.”
As is journalism’s custom, writers and editors are spending the afternoon filling Twitter with tributes to and memories of the Voice:
Update, Aug. 31, 2018, at 4 p.m.: Peter Barbey has issued the following statement:
This is a sad day for The Village Voice and for millions of readers. The Voice has been a key element of New York City journalism and is read around the world. As the first modern alternative newspaper, it literally defined a new genre of publishing. As the Voice evolved over the years, its writers, editors, reporters, reviewers, contributors, photographers, artists and staff were united by the idea that the they spoke for and fought hard for those that believed in a better New York City and a better world. The Voice has connected multiple generations to local and national news, music, art, theater, film, politics and activism, and showed us that it’s idealism could be a way of life.
In recent years, the Voice has been subject to the increasingly harsh economic realities facing those creating journalism and written media. Like many others in publishing, we were continually optimistic that relief was around the next corner. Where stability for our business is, we do not know yet. The only thing that is clear now is that we have not reached that destination.
The Village Voice was created to give speed to a cultural and social revolution, and its legacy and the voices that created that legacy are still relevant today. Perhaps more than ever. Its archives are an indispensable chronicle of history and social progress. Although the Voice will not continue publishing, we are dedicated to ensuring that its legacy will endure to inspire more generations of readers and writers to give even more speed to those same goals.
We have begun working to ensure that the enormous print archive of The Village Voice is made digitally accessible. I began my involvement with the Voice intending to ensure its future. While this is not the outcome I’d hoped for and worked towards, a fully digitized Voice archive will offer coming generations a chance to experience for themselves what is clearly one of this city’s and this country’s social and cultural treasures.
From the bottom of my heart, I thank everyone who pulled together to attempt create a new future for The Village Voice. Their passion and perseverance have inspired me. I will always be humbled by the grit they’ve shown and the dedication they have displayed.