The Village Voice announced Friday it would stop publishing after 63 years. A year ago it stopped publishing in print, despite promises from the company’s new owner, Peter D. Barbey, to invest in and revitalize the famed publication. Forbes recently estimated that Barbey was worth about $6 billion, but he cited “business realities” in his statement to staff as the reason for closing the newspaper just three years after acquiring it.
Barbey did not respond to a ThinkProgress request for comment.
The closure of The Village Voice is the latest body blow for alternative weeklies — free local papers that cover a city’s news, arts, and nightlife. Baltimore City Paper closed after four decades of publication; its death came at the hands of parent company Tronc. Philadelphia City Paper, the Boston Phoenix, the San Francisco Bay Guardian, Metro Pulse, and dozens of other alternative weeklies have closed. The Association of Alternative Newsmedia’s list of member publications has shrunk by about 20 percent since 2009.
Just as troubling is that the weeklies often are bought up by their local newspapers — historically the alt-weekly’s main competition. The Baltimore Sun Media Group had bought up City Paper; the Chicago Sun Times bought the Chicago Reader in 2012; the San Francisco Bay Guardian and SF Weekly were bought up by their rival’s parent company.
The Village Voice’s closure at the hands of a billionaire out-of-towner cuts especially deep: it was the biggest alt-weekly, but it was the paper of record for the genre, and established the candid, fearless voice that sets alt-weeklies apart from the daily papers.
Barbey reportedly told the staff he was “still trying to save” the Voice, but did not appear to offer specifics.