End of an Era: J. Hoberman is Out at the Village Voice, Staffers Mourn Former Critic and Labor Leader’s Departure

The Village Voice‘s longtime chief film critic and an institution at the paper, J. Hoberman, is out, his tenure ended by Village Voice Media as yet another in a long, ongoing series in staff reductions at the paper. The reactions from fellow staffers and among his contemporaries have been swift and unilateral in their disappointment and sadness.

Mr. Hoberman, a 19-year veteran of the alternative weekly (24-year if you count his days as a freelancer), had this to say to Joe Coscarelli at Daily Intel [who, like the writer of this post, is also a former Village Voice staff writer.]:

I’ve seen a lot of people lose their jobs there in the last five years,” said Hoberman, referring to the period after the legendary publication was sold to the newspaper chain New Times (now Village Voice Media). “I would be disingenuous to say I hadn’t considered the possibility that this would happen to me eventually,” he added. “I was shocked, but not surprised.”

Notably, Mr. Hoberman was one of the chief stewards during the Village Voice writers’ union contract negotiations last summer, which almost resulted in a strike, eventually averted at the eleventh hour.

Other Voice staffers past and present are making their displeasure very publicly known.

  • Village Voice staff writer Camille Dodero: “send help.
  • Village Voice staff writer Steven Thrasher: “Was I ever more professionally inspired then when #Hoberman was rallying the troops for our union fight?”
  • Village Voice film editor Allison Benedikt: “Every layoff at the Voice hurts, but this one by far hurts the most, professionally and personally.”
  • Former Village Voice nightlife columnist Tricia Romano: “why call it the village voice anymore?
  • Former Voice web editor Francesca Stabile (who left the paper not a month ago): “Respect to Jim Hoberman, and may a much better publication earn the right to print his wonderful work.”

Others on the periphery—whose comments are being seconded through a series of retweets by Voice staffers—are taking much more insidery shots at the paper: “If only Hobes had written more about Scientology” noted The L Magazine film section’s Twitter, in a direct shot across the bow to Voice editor-in-chief Tony Ortega’s extensive posting on the religion for the paper’s website. For his part, Mr. Ortega has issued the same statement to both Daily Intel and Capital New York, who initially reported the news, emailing:

“The Voice is committed to providing comprehensive film coverage, and will continue to publish our many fine film writers, both in print and online.”

What he neglected to note here is that J. Hoberman—the widely acclaimed critic and Voice union shop labor leader who helped establish the Voice‘s reputation for excellent film criticism—just won’t be one of them anymore. Ms. Benedikt may have articulated the sentiment best, concluding: “OK going to drink alcohol now. #hoberman

That said, former Village Voice intern, staff writer, editor, and Hoberman protege Zach Baron (now reviewing film for The Daily) may have summed up the state of the once-storied alternative weekly’s legacy best, in the form of the bylines of Voice legacy writers, all of whom have been laid off since Village Voice Media took over the paper.

Around that time, New York profiled the heads of Village Voice Media with a November, 2005 piece entitled “The Voice From Beyond The Grave” asking if the paper—a “former shell of itself”—could find new life.

fkamer@observer.com | @weareyourfek

End of an Era: J. Hoberman is Out at the Village Voice, Staffers Mourn Former Critic and Labor Leader’s Departure