The Village Voice is a free weekly tabloid-format newspaper and news and features website in New York City that features investigative articles, analysis of current affairs and culture, arts and music coverage, and events listings for New York City. It is also distributed throughout the United States on a pay basis.
It was the first of the urban tabloid-format newspapers that came to be known as alternative weeklies, and as such, is the oldest and largest newspaper of its kind in the United States.
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. The offices in the 1960s were located at Sheridan Square; then to 11th Street and University Place from the 70's through 1980; then to Broadway and 13th Street; and then they moved to Cooper Square in the East Village in 1991. In 2013, they moved to the Financial District.
The Voice has published groundbreaking investigations of New York City politics, as well as reporting on local and national politics, with arts, culture, music, dance, film, and theater reviews. The Voice has 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, continues to this day and remains a highly 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's movies. In 2001 the paper sponsored its first Siren Festival music festival, a free annual event every summer held at Coney Island. That event has since been 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.
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 is also known for containing adult content, including sex-advice columns and many pages of advertising for "adult services". This content is located at the back of the newspaper. It is known locally for being the place where most hard rock or jazz concerts are announced, sometimes with full page paid ads. Most groups visiting New York advertise in the Voice for publicity. Most venues in NYC advertise their concerts in The Village Voice.
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 became one of the last alternative weeklies in America to become free of charge. (The paper is free in the five boroughs only; it still carries a charge for home/mail delivery and for newsstands outside the city limits, such as on Long Island.)
While the Voice is today known for its staunch support for the civil rights of gays -- it publishes an annual Gay Pride issue every June -- it wasn't always so. Early in its history, the newspaper had a reputation as having an anti-homosexual slant. When 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 and 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 Voice to do so.
The Voice was the second organization in the US known to have extended domestic partner benefits, in July 1982. 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.
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.
The paper is referenced in the musical Rent during the song La Vie Boheme. The line goes: "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."
Changes after acquisition by New Times Media
Since being acquired by New Times Media in 2005, the publication's key personnel have changed and the content has become increasingly mainstream. The Voice is now managed by two journalists from Phoenix, Arizona. Some New York media critics perceive a loss of the paper's original iconoclastic, bohemian spirit.
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/fired soon after.
The paper has experienced high turnover among its editorial leadership since 2005. 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. As of April 2007[update], Tony Ortega, former editor of the Broward-Palm BeachNew Times, is editor.
In December 2008, The New York Times reported that the situation grew so strained that half of its entire staff was gone. One still-employed writer remarked that the Voice's managers "don’t seem to be able to sit there and just talk about them with their own work force to deal with these problems".
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").
Current ownership under 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 Voice for decades.
In July 2013, Voice Media Group executives named Tom Finkel editor.
In addition to the weekly print edition circulated around New York City, the paper operates three blogs: Runnin' Scared (news), Sound of the City (music) and Fork in the Road (restaurants and bar news). The paper operates several social media accounts, including @VillageVoice on Twitter and it also manages a Facebook presence. The film section writers and editors also produce a weekly Voice Film Club podcast.