If there is one hire that signifies the changing of the guard moment we’re witnessing in the New York media scene, I’d argue it’s the Village Voice‘s hiring of Harry Siegel, which they announced yesterday afternoon.
Siegel will be their new city columnist and is taking over the space filled, admirably, by Tom Robbins, who is now teaching the next generation of reporters over that the CUNY graduate center. (Robbin worked alongside investigative reporter Wayne Barrett who left in January, after more than three decades at the paper, for a job at the Daily Beast and The Nation Institute.)
But don’t let Siegel’s age — 33 — fool you.
Siegel, a Brooklyn native, combines the historical perspective of a much older veteran (ask him what he was doing in the early and mid 1990s!) with the intelligent irreverence of an annoying hipster (he once demanded the New York Times write a correction after they reported that the New York Press endorsed Fernando Ferrer in the 2005 mayor’s race. Even a casual reading of the endorsement — written by Siegel — would see he was kidding).
I probably would still be saying this even if Siegel wasn’t an old friend and colleague of mine from the New York Press days.
And, in a Gchat interview yesterday (what should we call that kind of thing?), Siegel said he’s eager to write a weekly column and, somewhat less reliant on using the blogging format as a way to make his mark on the scene.
Harry Siegel: Hey man
Azi Paybarah: yo. congratulations
Azi Paybarah: all right, first things first.
what’s the name of the column going to be and the name of the blog?
Harry Siegel: Funny, but b/c of Voice style, the name of the column will be
Harry Siegel and for blogging.
I’ll be contributing to Runnin’ Scared.
Azi Paybarah: you had more creative names back in the NY Press Days
Harry Siegel: Azimandias!
Azi Paybarah: ssshhhh about that.
So, will this be a reprisal of the NY Press you were building not too long ago,
or are you picturing something different for this
– what do we call it? – column / blogging operation you’re doing?
Harry Siegel: This is going to be a straight column, so
I think comparing it to what I was doing as an editor at the Press is apples and oranges.
And while I’ll be blogging some, I’m really excited about the weekly column part —
— it’s a form that still packs a real punch when done right, and I is under-represented these days as the blog/instant news cycle model has ascended.
Excited to have a chance to hold and develop thoughts and stories, and to give them context
Azi Paybarah: despite your youthful age (33 is still young, right?),
you’ve been around for a while.
what’s your take on the NY media and how it’s been covering Bloomberg? Because, you know, sadly, we don’t have columns from Joyce Purnick, or Clyde Haberman, or even the ideologically consistent New York Sun, or, needless to say, Village Voice veterans Wayne Barrett and Tom Robbins.
Harry: there is big hole to fill in institutional knowledge. DC has gained at NY’s expense —
so just looking at the New Yorkers at Politico: Ben Smith, and Gregg Birnbaum, and Glenn Thrush, and Maggie Haberman, and Edward-Isaac Dovere, and Allison Silver (formerly Nia, who is now at the Post) and Reid Epstein of Newsday. And, until recently, me.
I’m sure I’m missing a few people, but you get the idea.
So yes I think there’s space here, especially for columnists.
I’m not sure who writes long form about New York who really captures the city and its voice these days.
And yes, I am 33.
Azi Paybarah: think you’ll score a Bloomberg interview?
Harry Siegel: Lol
I hope so, we’ll see
But I also think there’s a lot to be said for looking at fundamentals, rather than personalities.
And being sure what access you do have pays off in terms of information, which ain’t always the case
Azi Paybarah: any advice for blogging junkies like me, who, in some ways, are now sharing turf with you?
Harry Siegel: Hmm — gimmie 1 sec to think about that
Azi Paybarah: in the meantime, let me try another way into the question!
what are the strengths of writing a weekly column, rather than, say, a constantly updated blog?
Harry Siegel: Dangerous to say before actually doing the column – but hopefully, I’m going to find out.
Thinking about it beforehand, I hope it’s a chance to have things whole cloth, rather than in ever smaller news bits that can create proportional tricks, and defy contextualization.
Like DH Lawrence said about Joyce and Wolfe, as best I remember: It’s like they’re taking consciousness and ripping it up into finer and finer bits until they can only be distinguished by smell.
Mostly I hope that having access to Runnin Scared means I can blog a good deal when there’s news,
but avoid the churnolism regular blogging tends to encourage
Azi Paybarah: aaaand end scene.