Three years after buying The Village Voice, and a year after the paper shut down its print edition, owner Peter Barbey told the remaining staff today that the publication will no longer be posting any new stories.
"Today is kind of a sucky day," Barbey told the staff, according to audio obtained by Gothamist. "Due to, basically, business realities, we're going to stop publishing Village Voice new material [sic]."
Barbey said that half of the staff, which is around 15 to 20 people, will remain on to "wind things down," and work on a project to archive the Voice's material online.
The rest of the staff will be let go today.
Listen to Christopher Robbins discuss the Voice's closure on WNYC:
"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 told the staff.
He also praised them for doing important work: "You had amazing grit, to remain professional in doing what you're doing and hanging in there to the end."
The Voice, founded as an alternative weekly newspaper in 1955, has had a number of previous owners, including New York magazine, Rupert Murdoch, Leonard Stern, and New Times (later Village Voice) Media.
Barbey also seemed to indicate that he may have been thinking about selling the Voice for some time.
"I've been having conversations with other entities for months now," Barbey said in the Friday meeting. "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."
Friend just turned in his news piece, was told by his editor there was good news: He's the journalist with the last news story to appear in the Voice. That's also, the editor said, the bad news.
— Valerie Vande Panne (@asktheduchess) August 31, 2018
In a 2015 interview, Barbey, whose family owns The Reading Eagle (Barbey is president) as shares in a textile empire, that includes brands like The North Face, Vans, Dickies, and Reef, promised to invest in the Voice: "I’m honored I had an the opportunity to purchase it and be part of its future. It’s one of the world’s great journalistic brands. It deserves to survive and prosper. It’s important to a lot of people. It needs to not be resource constrained. Kind of like anything organic, it just needs food and water."
A voicemail left at the Voice's offices was not immediately returned. The mailbox attached to Barbey's cell phone number was full. We'll update as we learn more.
Update: Barbey has issued a statement. "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… The Voice has connected multiple generations to local and national news, music, art, theater, film, politics and activism, and showed us that its idealism could be a way of life."
He also addressed the financial issues: "In recent years, the Voice has been subject to the increasingly harsh economic realties 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.”
You can read the statement in full below:
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.
(Disclosure: This reporter spent a year at the Voice from 2016 to 2017.)
This story has been corrected to reflect that Barbey told the staff the news in person, but that other Voice employees who weren't present called in.