Tough Day at the Village Voice

Posted by Juliet Linderman

On Tuesday, Village Voice veteran muckraker and inspiration to all aspiring journalists Wayne Barrett announced that he is leaving the Voice. What’s more: Tom Robbins is going with him, or rather “going out with the guy who brought me to the dance.” As a going away gift to New York City, Barrett penned a brilliant and affecting final column. The result: not a dry eye in the house. Or at least in my apartment. An excerpt:

“I have loved my bond with you and have never traded an inch of truth for a moment, or even a season, of access. I tell the young people still drawn to this duty that it is the most honorable one in America, and that I have never met a corrupt journalist. I even met one, Tom Robbins, so brave that when he heard I was leaving, he quit himself and didn’t even tell me he was.”

I was lucky enough to intern at the Voice right before the buyout in 2005 that resulted in the flight of so many greats. I had wanted to work at the Village Voice since I was 14 years old, and that internship meant absolutely everything to me. I sat in a little cubicle down the hall from Wayne Barrett’s office, where he seemed to have four or five interns (that’s four or five more than everyone else) working at all hours of the day. You could always tell the Barrett interns from the rest of us because they dressed up; their shirts were crisp, their slacks weren’t wrinkled. And I was in awe of Wayne Barrett. He seemed absolutely larger than life.

My first few months at the Voice I spent primarily in the archives, leafing through volumes and volumes of rapidly yellowing back issues in preparation of the 50th anniversary issue. In those archives, I learned a tremendous amount about the Voice’s history, and how innovative and culturally significant it was. It was a brave paper, with brave reporters uninterested in pandering to elected officials or powerful individuals and unafraid of asking difficult questions and pissing people off when necessary. The Village Voice ruffled feathers. Wayne Barrett was a big part of that legacy. Tom Robbins, too, without a doubt. Now that they’re gone it’s the end of an era: The Voice that was is no longer. But I’m really glad it existed.