In its annual State of the News Media report, the Project for Excellence in Journalism notes that the combined circulation of AAN member papers dropped by nearly 7 percent in 2009, adding to the 5 percent drop in 2008. But the report points out that many small-market papers grew circulation in 2009, and that alts, like other newspapers, are increasingly moving to digital platforms. Village Voice editor Tony Ortega tells PEJ that alt-weeklies are coming out of the downturn in better shape than dailies, due to a more flexible business model and the fact that alts have always been free. "There's no doubt that the economy was just as hard on alternative weeklies as it was on the dailies," he says. "But it's also obvious that some alt-weeklies have come through the tough times in better shape than others."

Continue ReadingPEJ: 2009 Was a ‘Difficult’ Year for Alt-Weeklies

At a panel discussion earlier this month at the 92nd Street Y in New York, Tony Ortega talked about web publishing and the print media industry, along with Voice publisher Michael Cohen, Gothamist publisher Jake Dobkin and Alana Taylor of While noting that, like most papers, the Voice is struggling to do more with less right now, Ortega says the product isn't the problem. "Newspapers have never been more popular in their history," he says. "It's just that our advertisers have no money to spend."

Continue ReadingVillage Voice Editor: Industry Woes are a ‘Business Model Crisis’

The two sides are trying to reach an agreement on a new contract before June 30, when the unionized Voice employees' current contract will expire, the New York Post reports. "The battle lines have already been drawn, and, not surprisingly, health care is a major focal point," says the Post. Staff writer and shop steward Tom Robbins says that the unionized employees are being asked to join a contributory health plan for the first time. He estimates the plan could cost each employee up to $5,500 per year, and notes that the union has put forth a wage increase proposal, but he isn't sure that will work. "There is no way they are going to give us a pay increase to match that [health care cost increase]," Robbins says. There has been talk that a strike is possible if the contract isn't in place by the end of June, but editor Tony Ortega is hopeful a deal can be reached. "I've been told these things always go to midnight on June 30," he tells the Post. "We value their work and hope to make an amicable settlement."

Continue ReadingVillage Voice Staff and Management Meet Today for Contract Talks

Late last week, the art blog Modern Art Notes raised questions about Christian Viveros-Faune's editorial independence, noting that he was involved in organizing two major commercial art fairs at the same time he was the Voice's art critic. The blog argued that he should either resign from the fairs, or the Voice should stop publishing him, and the flap lit up the blogosphere on Friday. On Saturday, Voice editor Tony Ortega explained to readers that, in light of "an appearance of conflict," Viveros-Faune would no longer be writing for the paper.

Continue ReadingAmidst Ethics Questions, The Village Voice Parts Ways With Critic

When the New York Press was sold to Manhattan Media in early August, the new CEO announced the paper would stop running "explicit" ads. The National Organization for Women and some op-ed writers took that opportunity to put more pressure on the Voice and New York magazine to also stop running the ads. The Voice "fired back by defiantly running eight naked ladies on the cover" a few weeks ago, the New York Observer reports. Editor Tony Ortega tells the Observer that the cheeky cover was his idea. "The subject of our adult ads has been brought up lately in the local press," Ortega says. "I thought the best response from the newsroom was to poke some fun at ourselves." Manhattan Media CEO Tom Allon tells the Observer that, while he thinks "the punchline was only clear to a small sliver of their readership," he's glad to have stirred up the attention. "Clearly it was a nod to us and to our decision," he says. "I was flattered that they thought that a decision we made warranted a Voice cover."

Continue ReadingThe Village Voice Playfully Responds to Criticism on Adult Ads

The editor tells MediaBistro he's most proud of bringing "a newsier focus to the front of the book" and the addition of a metro column by Tom Robbins. Though the early '07 storyline painted the Voice as a newspaper rife with inner turmoil and conflict, Ortega says that wasn't what he saw when he arrived. "I didn't find tumult so much as a group of people wanting to end the distractions and simply put out a newspaper," he says. "Those first few weeks were busy, but almost right away we were focused on the things that matter, like developing good stories." He also says that he -- like others at the AAN Convention last month -- remains "cautiously optimistic" about the future of the alt-weekly. "The dailies, after all, are being told by consultants to go free, increase local coverage, and write with some attitude -- all things we're already doing," he says.

Continue ReadingFour Months In, Tony Ortega Discusses the State of The Village Voice

Writing on the New Times Broward-Palm Beach's Daily Pulp blog, staff writer Bob Norman says "Ortega's announcement at a meeting yesterday left the staff under what I can I only describe as a funereal pall." He predicts Ortega "will sit in the editor's chair at the Voice for as long he wants to be there," because he has "the temperament to weather the shitstorm" and the "hard-earned trust" of Village Voice Media Executive Editor Mike Lacey.

Continue ReadingTony Ortega ‘Won’t Be Easily Replaced’

That was quick. Less than one business day after David Blum was fired, Village Voice Media announce that the editor of New Times Broward-Palm Beach will replace him. Ortega, 43, who started his career in 1995 at the Phoenix New Times, is the third editor-in-chief hired by the Manhattan alt-weekly since Don Forst left 14 months ago. "Lincoln promoted General Grant late in the game. Stalin promoted Marshall Zukoff late in the game," explains Executive Editor Michael Lacey. "Tony Ortega is the right man at the right time."

Continue ReadingTony Ortega Named Village Voice Editor