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April 13, 2006

VILLAGE VOICE FIRES JAMES RIDGEWAY; SYDNEY SCHANBERG QUITS

Voice_logo The firing of Washington columnist James Ridgeway by the new management of the Village Voice, and the resignation of the distinguished Pulitizer Prize winner Sydney Schanberg from the paper, represent a sad moment in the history of the New York weekly. I was a columnist for the Voice for some seven years. Jim Ridgeway was not only a colleague but someone I had considered a comrade in the pursuit of truthSydney_schanberg for many years. Syd Schanberg (right), whom I also have known for years and whose work I have long admired, is the former New York Times reporter and Newsday columnist who is known to the larger public through the movie "The Killing Fields," describing his intrepid reportorial work for the Times in Cambodia during the Khmer Rouge takeover and his indefatigable and devoted search for his Cambodian colleague Dith Pran. Syd is one of the most distinguished names in Americn journalism. That these two superb journalists -- Schanberg and Ridgeway -- have now vanished from the Voice is a symbol of what is happening to that paper, and of what will most likely happen to all the other alternative weekly papers in the Voice chain (including the L.A. Weekly, for which I have also long written) under the new ownership and management of Michael Lacey's New Times corporation.

"Democracy Now" this morning had an informative discussion with Ridgeway, Schanberg, and other Voice writers that I urge you to listen to or read. Among other things, Schanberg -- explaining why he left the Voice -- quotes a definition of the new editorial line given by the new owner, Mike Lacey, to an editorial staff meeting: "He said, 'If I want to read regular criticism or bashing of the Bush administration, I'll read the New York Times. I don't want it in this paper.'” You can both read a transcript of, and listen to, the archived "Democracy Now" broadcast on what's happening to the Voice, by clicking here.

The letter of protest below is signed by Village Voice writers and staffers, including some of the most able and valuable people still at the weekly, many of whom I'm proud to call friends. I associate myself entirely with their sentiments:

Ridgeway's track record   

For 30 years, James Ridgeway has, in his person, his politics, and his writing, defined what makes the Voice a special publication. From Three Mile Island to 9-11, Ridgeway has provided some of the nation's most incisive and insightful coverage of government misfeasance and malfeasance. He was one of the first journalists in America to spotlight the threat posed by a resurgent racist and neo-Nazi movement, an issue he hammered away at in the pages of the Voice years before anyone ever heard of Ruby Ridge or Timothy McVeigh. His reports on escalating environmental abuses exposed corporate lawbreakers and bureaucratic indifference. Ridgeway's writings on conflicts from Bosnia to Baghdad to Haiti have always provided the otherwise unreported flip side of the world according to the mainstream media, in short reporting that jibes precisely with the exact mission of the Voice. Over the past few years, Ridgeway expanded onto the Web, filing regular nuggets of breaking news and even posting video reports on the 2004 elections. In light of this distinguished track record, the decision last week by the Voice's new ownership to terminate Ridgeway is shameful. It also sends a terrible message as to the sort of coverage that the new ownership portends. We call on Voice Media executive editor Michael Lacey and chairman and CEO Jim Larkin to reverse his discharge.   

Tom Robbins
J. Hoberman
Lynn Yaeger
Nat Hentoff
Jarrett Murphy
Kristen Lombardi
Ed Park
Chuck Eddy
Robert Christgau
Nina Lalli
Elizabeth Zimmer
Dennis Lim
Tricia Romano
Aina Hunter
Corina Zappia
Jorge Morales
Wayne Barrett
Michael Musto
Jennifer Gonnerman
Darren Reidy   

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