The wave of layoffs sweeping across the newsrooms of Village Voice Media, America’s largest chain of alt-weeklies, finally reached New York last week.
Although some speculated the Arizona-based media company formerly known as New Times would spare its flagship brand and new namesake, it wasn’t to be: Last week, The Village Voice laid off Ward Harkavy, a longtime senior editor, and Harry Siegel, the City Hall columnist hired in April who had previously edited the New York Sun and the New York Press.
VVM sought to trim the company-wide editorial budget by five percent by dropping a handful of positions from every paper, according to MinnPost, and eliminating the position of assistant calendar editor altogether, according to Gawker.
Others speculated that the Voice’s layoffs came later than the other papers (which had mostly received word of their cuts in September) in order to have as many employees as possible to produce the paper’s “Best of New York City” issue, which brings an annual rush of advertising and feeds VVM-branded smart phone apps. Mr. Harkavy is said to have been influential in its assigning and editing, and Mr. Siegel had the lead essay this year, on gentrification his native neighborhood of Ditmas Park.
In fact, the timing of layoffs at the company is becoming something of a tradition. In 2007, VVM layoffs also coincided with the “Best of New York” issue, much of which was written by fired or departed staffers. At the time, Gawker wrote that the zombified bylines forced editor Tony Ortega to ditch the practice of bylining “Best of New York City” blurbs altogether.
They were unbylined this year as well, but one had a Siegel-ish ring to it: “Best Political Wonks” went to Josh Benson and Tom McGeveran, whose site, Capital NY, The Village Voice wrote, was “in line with what Talk of the Town was back when Talk of the Town was well-reported and New York oriented.”
What was once service reporting quickly became a serendipitous log roll: On Friday, Mr. Siegel’s column appeared on Capital NY.