Tony Ortega Fired by Village Voice Media

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Tony Ortega launched a preemptive strike to cushion his departure from the Village Voice – and it failed miserably.

Just a few hours after Ortega announced he was leaving the weekly to write a book on Scientology – a move that was met with a collective yawn by the New York media – that same media uncovered the truth.

Ortega had been fired. No, he wasn’t even laid off.  He was fired.

Announcing you’re leaving a journalism job to write a book is always media shorthand for…”you have no idea what you’re going to do next,” something that no doubt raised the suspicions of those that cover the media beat in New York.

That Ortega’s story did not sound credible is no surprise. He had long lost credibility as he became the public face of Village Voice Media’s Backpage.com, defending the company’s abhorrent practice of making money by pimping out underage girls into lives of prostitution and sexual slavery.

To do that, he commissioned stories based on junk science to minimize the epidemic of underage prostitution that only became worse because of Backpage.com.

But appeasing his Phoenix bosses Jim Larkin and Michael Lacey could not, in the end, help Ortega keep his job.

After wielding his hatchet, Lacey even told the New York Times that Ortega’s “departure creates an opening for one of the most compelling jobs in journalism.”

In other words, the Phoenix-based bosses wanted Ortega gone so badly they don’t even have someone lined up to take his place.

Meanwhile the New York Observer, citing sources with knowledge of the Voice situation, reported that “Ortega’s exit from the Voice was not his decision.”

“He was increasingly obsessed with Scientology and had neglected almost all of his editorial duties at the paper,” an ex-staffer told the Observer. “Sometimes he wouldn’t even edit features.”

Ortega – because of his obsession - was neglecting his duties as the editor of the alternative weekly, and that’s what got him fired.

That same theme was echoed by the New York web site Capitalnewyork.com which reported that “the newsroom and the sales side of the Voice had become increasingly uncomfortable with the volume of Scientology coverage Ortega was churning out.”

"We thought it was destroying the Voice brand," said one former staffer, according to the media web site.

Adding to Ortega’s woes and focusing on his utter lack of credibility as a journalist, New York magazine weighed in on the matter as it said Ortega was “focusing much of his work on the Voice's site to obsessive, somewhat incongruous coverage…”

The repeated use of the word obsessive – a fitting adjective for Ortega – was also emphasized on the web site Gawker.com, which said: “the obsession of the Voice's editor-in-chief should probably be the city of New York…”

But that’s too late now.

The five-year reign of Tony Ortega as editor of the Village Voice has come to an abrupt end.

It was a period in which he dismantled and destroyed a once venerable institution, while indulging an obsession at the expense of his job.

Along the way he lost all credibility as a journalist or, as he now maintains, as a would-be book writer.

But most of all we wish him good riddance for his public role in defending Village Voice Media’s criminal enterprise of exploiting young girls to make money.

Farewell, Tony Ortega, as you fade into obscurity and irrelevance.

You will not be missed.

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