Village Voice Chief Tony Ortega: Robbins Did Not ‘Quit in Protest’

village voice4 Village Voice Chief Tony Ortega: Robbins Did Not Quit in ProtestBack in the day, a protest at the Village Voice was a matter of newsroom shouting matches and picket signs. These days it’s a little more nuanced.

Is Tom Robbins leaving the Voice in “protest” as has been widely reported? Well…

Voice editor in chief Tony Ortega insists that initial reports that Tom Robbins’ quit The Village Voice “in protest” of colleague Wayne Barrett’s firing—like a New York Times reporter’s widely-circulated tweet and our own first read of Barrett’s farewell post—are inaccurate.

“For [Times reporter Jeremy] Peters to say that Robbins quit in protest without even calling me and asking me about it is really irresponsible,” Ortega told The Observer. “I really enjoyed working with both of these guys. There are no hard feelings between either of us.” Ortega added that after Barrett’s departure Robbins decided it was time for him to leave as well, but that he would continue until the end of the month before moving on.

“I think if you ask Robbins he’ll say he wanted to leave with the guy he came here with,” Ortega said, echoing Barrett.

Robbins offered his own take on matters. “I think it’s a tragic mistake that the paper couldn’t find room for Wayne Barrett and therefore I should probably not be part of it,” he told us, which sounds a little like a protest. But he also said, “Tony’s right, I don’t have hard feelings about the paper, I wish it well, of course.” 

For his part, Peters later spoke with Barrett, who told him Voice management said his position was eliminated for budget reasons. Politico reports that Barrett will become a fellow at The Nation Institute.

Although Ortega did not deny that Barrett was laid off, he had nothing but kind things to say. Working with the longtime politics reporter, he said, had been one of the best parts of his job.

“Which is why he wrote up that farewell thing and I posted it! I wouldn’t have done that if I wasn’t still a supporter!” he added.

Since he was hired in March 2007, Ortega has overseen the dismissal of many of the contributors who defined the Voice‘s voice, including longtime columnist Nat Hentoff and veteran fashion writer Lynn Yaeger.

kstoeffel@observer.com :: @kstoeffel