The Village Voice ends editorial production, lays off half of staff

Image via Wikimedia Commons.

The Village Voice is suspending all editorial content and will lay off half its staff effective immediately, according to a member of the staff.

Peter Barbey, who bought the famed alt-weekly from Voice Media Group in 2015, announced the decision today in a call. CJR acquired audio of the call from a Voice staff member.

Today is kind of a sucky day. Due to the business realities, we are going to stop publishing Village Voice new material,” said Barbey on the call. “About half the staff, it’ll be last day today. About half the staff staying on to wind things down and to work on the archive project.”

I worked at the Village Voice from June 2016 through August 2017, a tumultuous period of time that saw constant editorial change. Will Bourne, who was hired by Barbey in January 2016, was abruptly fired in August of the same year. The newspaper went months with no permanent editor-in-chief, and in December 2016, Stephen Mooallem was hired from Harper’s Bazaar. He quietly left the company in March, but not before Barbey last summer ended the print version of the Voice and subsequently laid off 13 of its remaining 17 unionized employees, who had for months been deadlocked in contract negotiations, according to the union president. (I was a member of the union negotiating committee.)

It’s unclear how many employees will lose their jobs today, or for how long those who remain will keep theirs. Barbey refers to a digital archiving project on the conference call and says that work will continue. Barbey also refers to meetings with “other entities” and suggests that suspending editorial content was a condition of the continuation of those meetings. It’s unclear if he is planning to sell the company.

“I’ve been having conversations with other entities for months now and it all depends, but [ending editorial content] is something we have to do before they could talk to us any further,” said Barbey. “I bought the Village Voice to save it. This isn’t exactly how I thought it was going to end up, and I’m still trying to save the Village Voice.”

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This piece has been updated to clarify that the meeting conducted by Barbey was not entirely remote, to clarify the Voice‘s periods without a permanent editor, and to add sourcing for the count of laid-off employees. It has also been adjusted to correct the month Stephen Mooallem left the company.

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Alexandria Neason is CJR's Staff Writer and Senior Delacorte Fellow. Previously, she was a reporter at The Village Voice and covered education for the Teacher Project, a partnership between Columbia Journalism School and Slate. A team she worked on won the 2016 Education Writers Association award for news features. Follow her on Twitter @alexandrianeas.