LOCAL-ISH BOY MAKES GOOD: Ex-PW Music Editor Named Village Voice Music Editor, Replaces Fired Local Girl Made Good Maura Johnston


NEW YORK TIMES: The Village Voice has named a new music editor, three days after it emerged that the weekly’s editor was departing and its music editor had been fired. According to a post on The Voice’s music blog on Monday afternoon, its new music editor is Brian McManus [pictured, below right], a former editor at Philadelphia Weekly who has also written for Houston Press, The Chicago Reader, SF Weekly and other publications, and recently reviewed a Madonna concert in Philadelphia for Rolling Stone. He is also the author of a book, “Philadelphia’s Best Dive Bars.” Last week, The Voice’s editor, Tony Ortega, announced via a blog post that he was leaving to write a book on Scientology. Maura Johnston [pictured, below left], the music editor for the last year and a half, posted to Twitter on Friday that she had been fired. MORE

MEDIA DECODER: Ms. Johnston, the music editor, said in an interview on Friday that, in her case, “the decision to leave was not mine.” Ms. Johnston, who began her career in music blogs, churned out a constant stream of Twitter messages and Tumblr posts each day in addition to her work at The Voice, which included editing the paper’s music coverage and blog items by a stable of freelance and staff writers. But she also embodied The Voice’s tradition of thoughtful cultural criticism, and resisted the kinds of light, easily consumable items, like Top 10 lists and photo compilations, that tend to draw the most traffic online. Giving in to “the Darwinistic page-view coverage of anything,” she said, “is damaging to culture as a whole.” It was unclear on Friday who would take her place. Last week, Village Voice Media appointed Ben Westhoff, the music editor of LA Weekly, to oversee music coverage for the company’s weekly newspapers, and Ms. Johnston’s dismissal was widely seen as a result of a power struggle over the direction of that coverage. MORE

MEDIA BISTRO: That might have been a veiled dig at LA Weekly music editor Ben Westhoff, who recently made waves with his blog post “The 20 Worst Hipster Bands.” The post was widely criticized throughout the blogosphere, but according to Westhoff it was also the most-read music blog in LA Weeklyhistory. According to Carr, Westhoff was recently put in charge of the music coverage for all 13 Village Voice Media papers, and “Ms. Johnston’s dismissal was widely seen as a result of a power struggle over the direction of that coverage.” MORE

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DAVID CARR: Over the weekend, Rosie Gray, a former staffer at The Village Voice now at BuzzFeed, wrote that the men in charge of Village Voice Media had more or less the run the place into the ground. She pointed to staff layoffs on Friday at the newspaper, one more episode in a long stretch of downsizing at a publication that is part of a chain of weeklies. The main problem, she said is,

they’re not Voice people. And it’s hard to explain the importance of being a Voice person if you’re not one. The Voice, as marginalized and irrelevant as it has become, really was the voice of the city and of a certain kind of New Yorker. It was insouciant and jubilant, with sharply reported city politics pieces sitting next to art house movie reviews and sex ads. The afterglow of that leaves an impression on those of us who worked there, even if you’re like me and were born well after the Voice’s heyday.

The last part is the telltale. The version of the Voice that was the “the voice of a city” has not existed for many years. The cup of coffee Ms. Gray had at The Voice as an intern and the author of the “Runnin’ Scared” blog may have made a strong impression, but The Voice has no shot of reclaiming a central role in a city that has four dailies covering New York — The Daily News, The New York Post, The New York Times and now The Wall Street Journal — in addition to the myriad blogs and print products of New York magazine, The New York Observer, Gawker and Capital New York. The list goes on, but you get the idea. In a large market like New York, The Voice, which used to make a noise nationally, has a hard time standing above the metropolitan clutter.

Ms. Gray points to the chain’s legal problems with Backpage.com, which critics have contended is used to market children and teens for sex work, as a significant distraction and a drain on resources. And she suggested that the cowboy tendencies of Village Voice Media’s two principals — Jim Larkin and Michael Lacey — did not endear them to the staff. But whatever their idiosyncrasies, those men aren’t killing The Voice; the informational ecosystem is. The problem with so-called alternative weeklies is that they were often formed in opposition to the daily newspapers in their respective markets, offering a spicier take on civic events and cultural coverage that reflected what was actually nascent in various places. With dailies limping in almost every American market and the listings and classifieds that were the bread and butter of weeklies now all over the Web, alternatives are just one more alternative among many. MORE

BUZZ FEED: Alt-weeklies are always dying. But the news Friday that four editorial staffers were laid off or had their hours cut to part-time at The Village Voice — two features writers, a news blogger and a listings editor — makes the sad fact of that paper’s eventual demise, evident for years, more immediate. The paper now has one news blogger, two features writers, a music editor, a few people working on listings and one critic, aided by a couple contributors, writing about food. The layoffs at the Voice weren’t the only ones: papers across the Village Voice Media company, which owns more or less every notable alternative weekly nowadays, experienced layoffs, I’ve learned, including those in Minneapolis, Phoenix, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Dallas, and Broward-Palm Beach. The Voice itself is planning to move out of its iconic East Village office space in the near future, as I and other staff members found out last year. There have been many ends of an era for a paper that always prided itself at being on the vanguard, but this one seems permanent and final: “I can’t imagine how much leaner they can get,” said a friend of mine who was recently let go from the Dallas Observer. At the Voice, people found out the hard way. They tried to log onto their accounts and couldn’t. This happened to blogger Victoria Bekiempis and to reporter Steven Thrasher, who still hadn’t spoken with his boss when I called him at 5:30 Friday evening; he learned the extent of the news through texts and tweets, he said. It was a harsh way to go, but fit what the Voice has become. MORE

NORMAN MAILER, 1955: At any rate, dear reader, we begin a collaboration, which may go on for three weeks, three months, or, Lord forbid, for three-and-thirty years. I have only one prayer —that I weary of you before you tire of me. And therefore, so soon as I learn to write columnese in a quarter of an hour instead of the unprofitable fifty-two minutes this has taken, we will all know better if our trifling business is going to continue. If it does, there is one chance in a hundred — make it a hundred thousand — that I will become a habitual assassin-and-lover columnist who will have something superficial or vicious or inaccurate to say about many of the things under the sun, and who knows but what some of the night. MORE

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