Last week, after 62 years as a presence on the streets of NYC, The Village Voice published its final print issue. On the cover was a 1965 black-and-white photo of Bob Dylan saluting, taken by a legendary Voice photographer, the late Fred McDarrah. Is Dylan there to reassure us that he who isn’t busy rebranding as a digital-only platform is busy dying? By that measure, the Voice is alive.
Readers who loved the Voice—including me, and I got to work there and ultimately write a column from 1985 to 1997—have needed reassurance that the paper wasn’t dying dozens of times over those six decades. The Voice was always dying, if only because the street life of any creative ethos in New York is so short.
But this death feels different.
In August, when Voice owner Peter Barbey announced that the storied newspaper would henceforth publish only online, he was greeted with headlines like “The Village Voice As We Knew Her Is Dead (For Real This Time).” The death knells only grew louder with the news, about a week later, that Barbey—a very wealthy liberal who was regarded as the Voice’s savior when he purchased the paper in 2015—would lay off 13 of the remaining 17 Voice union members, effectively busting the union.
And so when 300 former (and a few current) Voice staffers and freelancers gathered for the first-ever Village Voice reunion in early September, it did at times feel like a wake. But the party was planned long before the news of the paper’s folding. In fact, the former Voice writer Mike Tomasky had been batting around the idea of a reunion with some of us other ex-Voice-ers for a few years. But after the deaths, last January, of two Voice pillars, Nat Hentoff and Wayne Barrett, there was a new urgency to get together before, frankly, more of us died.
Maybe it’s true of all reunions, but inevitably the theme was mortality—of the old Voice, of print journalism, of ourselves. But, if this makes sense, it was a good mortality. “I’m really glad we’re doing this,” former managing editor Dave Herndon shouted from a stage, as he and other formers took turns reading the names of the 130 Voice people who had died—“because we’re all going to be on this list some day! And we’ll be lucky to be on this motherfucking list!”