The Shrinking World of Village Voice
The latest word out of the cash-strapped Village Voice Media empire is that the company’s News Times Broward Palm Beach weekly is not long for this world.
The news comes after the abrupt firing of the paper’s veteran editor, Eric Barton, who worked for the New Times for 10 years. Barton was the successor of Tony Ortega who edited the paper from 2005-2007 before being parachuted into New York to oversee the destruction of the Village Voice. Ortega has now layed off 50 Village Voice employees since September of last year.
More ominously, the staff of Ortega’s former Sunshine State paper is being sent to Miami to work out of the offices of the Miami New Times. While bosses are saying it’s just a more efficient way of putting out two newspapers, one media observer says it is a harbinger of doom for the Broward Palm Beach paper.
“The writing is on the wall – the Broward paper is on life support,” he said. “It never made any sense to have two weeklies in such close geographical proximity. With the consolidation into the Miami office, the next logical step is to see the folding of the Broward paper into the Miami property, leaving that paper to cover all of South Florida.”
The downsizing decision by corporate headquarters in Phoenix is just the latest in an incessant drive to cut costs with layoffs and shrinking page counts of papers that now resemble ultra-thin choir sheets – and not newspapers - in appearance.
While Village Voice Media owners Michael Lacey and Jim Larkin justify the cutbacks by blaming the lingering effects of the recession and the slow recovery of the economy, insiders say the real reason behind the shrinkage of the papers is the massive reader and advertiser backlash over Backpage.com, the company-owned classified ad web site that authorities and concerned citizens say is a front for teenage prostitution.
“Any time you hear a Village Voice Media paper named these days it’s in the same breath as Backpage.com,” the media observer said. “It’s guilt by association. Readers and advertisers are outraged over the trafficking of young girls on Backpage.com and they are voting with their feet – practically running away from these newspapers. The demise of the Broward paper is just another domino to fall.”
Now Tony Ortega – who time and again has gone out of his way to defend Backpage.com – will soon have to change his resume, to reflect that his last career stop before the New York Voice was with a paper that’s now defunct.
With management’s stubborn refusal to shut down the Backpage.com sex ads, going defunct is a fate that one day, inevitably, will befall the Village Voice as well as the other Village Voice Media weeklies.