Village Idiot—[CORRECTION: Some alternative weeklies in the Village Voice Media chain (formerly the New Times chain) do in fact have media criticism columns. An incorrect statement about this has been removed from this article. The error was made by the columnist. Apologies all around.] Management changes are always difficult, especially when some wunderkind's shadow darkens the door, towing with him ideas about how things should be done at your Pulitzer-winning alt weekly. That's what Democracy Now! is calling a "shakeup" at the Village Voice.
The paper merged with New Times Media, a chain of alternative weekly papers, and Michael Lacey is the new executive editor. First things first, he dismissed James Ridgeway, a stalwart of the paper's political reporting. Then two other old hands resigned. And, last week, 19 staffers distressed over Ridgeway's situation signed a petition aimed at Lacey. That's not a shakeup. That's a liquidation.
And sloshing sloppily over the rim of the Voice's glass with the rest of it? The paper's media criticism column is perched somewhere on the edge. Lacey's not fond of it, according to the Democracy Now! report, and he made allusions to the possibility of cutting it at a staff meeting. Never mind that the Village Voice was the first alternative weekly paper in the country, carrying some of the best media critiques the newspaper biz has ever seen.
In a society where big media does a piss-poor job of self-reflection, one of the best things about our beloved free weeklies is that they do watch the watchers, press the press, critique those entrusted with the delicate relay of information that keeps our model of government purring along. And in a business that sometimes likes to hear itself talk and should never get too comfortable, that's a big deal.
So what's the point of columns like our Thin Line? Is it to belittle fellow writers, to produce writing that smarts, whip-like, on the competition's hide?
No. But in a world of media monoliths, if the Village Voice isn't making sure the New York Times is doing the right kind of job, then who is? 'Cuz you can bet your bottom it's not the TV news, and it's not the mainstream media.