The end of an era

In case you missed it, my work responsibilities at my day job just got a whole lot lighter on Friday, as the Village Voice ownership announced that it will no longer be running new content, effective immediately.

This should mean I’ll have more time in the mornings to devote to scanning the globe for stadium and arena news, so if you’ve been irked by this site’s increasing tendency to leave lots of news for the Friday roundups, that tendency should begin to wane soon. (Though I kind of feel like people like the Friday roundups best, so maybe I shouldn’t try too hard to cover all news as soon as it happens.) That good news, though, is outweighed by the greater bad news of another still-vital news outlet disappearing from the world, with no indication that it’s soon going to be replaced.

Unless you count a single article in 1989, my time as a regular Voice contributor — just under 300 articles, according to the Voice’s internal database, though there are at least several dozen early pieces that aren’t included there — began with stadiums: Yankee Stadium in particular, whose 1998 falling-beam incident Joanna Cagan and I covered for the paper’s then-singular sports section, The Score. Later renamed Jockbeat, the Voice sports page survived until 2003; its last-ever feature was a report by me on a developer named Bruce Ratner who had a crazy idea to get New York to give him prime Brooklyn property to build an arena for the New Jersey Nets. I kept on covering sports subsidies for the paper’s website, though, along with writing about myriad subjects for the print edition, including Coney Island redevelopment and Michael Bloomberg’s homeless policies and the perils of standardized testing and climate change and how to not be an asshole about being a gentrifier. (You can find the full list of my articles here; Voice management has said it intends to keep the archives up indefinitely.)

I kept on writing for the Voice across three decades and ten editors-in-chief in part because they paid well and had a good reach — there was a time not that long ago when more than 100,000 New Yorkers would pick up the paper from its ubiquitous red boxes — but mostly because of the kind of journalism it stood for. Snarky long before Gawker, devoted to investigative reporting that would cover what the city’s dailies ignored, and always with an eye toward encouraging writers to find new ways of honing their craft, it was both a writers’ paper and a readers’ one; picking up the Voice always felt to me like visiting with the coolest, smartest kids in town, and actually working with the Voice was like being allowed into their club. I learned volumes in both roles, and was forever changed by the experience; as one long-ago Voice writer mourned on Facebook on Friday: “I am still writing for the Voice. I think most of the people who wrote for the Voice are still writing for the Voice.”

There are other news outlets out there trying to pick up the Voice gauntlet — or at least a finger or two of it — but none will be able to fully replace it, certainly not in this current era of feeble revenues and journalistic retrenchment. If there’s a publication out there that you cherish, please consider throwing some money its way, whether as a subscription or just a donation; while it’s great that the internet allows me to bring daily stadium news to you without having to own a printing press, this site wouldn’t exist without the work of all the reporters out there getting paid to report on the news — sometimes better than others, but it’s all way, way better than nothing. If too many more of these outlets disappear, as I told the New York Times on Friday, it makes me fear for what’s left of our democracy.

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10 comments on “The end of an era

  1. My condolences…in solidarity I’d be happy to make a donation to FoS if you’re interested in an “unscheduled fundraising initiative.” Either way, keep up the good work.

    1. Thanks for the condolences. And, I mean, I’m always happy to take donations all times of year — two just came in over the weekend, in fact — but I don’t need it to keep my lights on just yet. So only give if you feel like it, or if you really need an FoS Supporter pin to hold your pants up or something.

    1. It wasn’t a weekly paper anymore (it went web-only last year), and I haven’t lost my job yet (or rather, I’m still on payroll but my job no longer exists with no copy to assign or edit). But thanks!

  2. I wish you the best Neil. FOS has been such a great educational conduit for me relating to stadium matters. I have used your information to enlighten others as to what is really going on.

    1. Enlightening Others as to What Is Really Going On, Since 1998. (It’s Taking Longer Than We Thought.)

      (The Straight Dope ceased publication this summer too, so I feel authorized to adopt its motto.)

  3. Growing up in NYC in the 70’s, the VV was a news outlet for me to initially find out where the punk bands were playing. From there it expanded to a political education from great investigative journalism from the likes of Jack Newfield, Alexander Cockburn, Wayne Barrett, Joe Conason. There is some good non-power structure reportage in the internet, but those guys were a hard act to follow and will be missed.

    1. Aaron Gordon (who did some good stadium reporting as well back in the day for Vice Sports) was doing great work for us up till the last week on transit corruption and mismanagement:

      Also, I know where all the best punk bands are playing, so you can just ask me.

  4. Really sorry to hear about this Neil. As you know I’m not a New Yorker, so actually buying the Voice at a newsstand (when such a thing was possible) was never going to be easy.

    Was the decision by the publisher solely financial or ???

    Completely agree on the support front… if readers enjoy any media outlet (be it mainstream or even the freakshow efforts that populate the darker/weirder corners of the internet) please support it. Ultimately the good and rational feeds tend to get crowded out by the clickbait and shocknews. If we don’t support the reporting we value most, eventually all that will be left is the lunatic fringe and the neo nazis (whom we seem to have with us no matter how bad the media landscape gets…).

    If it bothers us that Alex Jones and Rush Limbaugh make tens of millions from their questionable “infotainment” and race baiting, there is actually something we can do besides shake our heads:

    Support someone else who provides real journalism. Despie the crowded landscape, they are still out there…

    1. “Was the decision by the publisher solely financial or ???”

      I will have more to say on this shortly.

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