Thursday, June 01, 2006

New to the Neighborhood

I've read the Village Voice since I was a kid. At its best (and I I'm going waaaaaaaay back into the mists of time), the Voice was absolutely essential reading. It had its claws dug into the underbelly of New York, and reported stories that the New York Times and the other dailies wouldn't touch.

Its advantage was that it was, at all times, a neighborhood institution, located in grungy dwellings in the west Village. I live about a hundred feet from the Voice's very first location, which was an unremarkable comercial building on Greenwich Avenue.

So I'm less than thrilled to read in the Times that the Voice has hired as its new editor a person with absolutely no experience with the city, either as a resident or journalist. His name is Erik Wemple and he is editor of the Washington City Paper.

I'd bet that this seeming handicap is either a tremendous advantage in disguise, or that his unfamiliarity with the area means that Erik will miss the nuances of the city and fall flat on his face.

He should begin by traveling around the city and getting acquainted. It is more than just Manhattan -- something the old Voice never forgot, but which has sometimes been neglected in the weekly of late. He also should haul out some old-- and I mean old -- issues of the Voice.

The Voice has always had good coverage in certain areas--organized crime, to cite one example--but it used to kick butt on a host of subjects back in the Sixties and Seventies. It would tackle stories that were way off the radar, like Albanian-Hispanic tensions in the Bronx. That was the kind of story that the Times, back then, never touched.

So my unsolicited advice to Erik Wemple: take the Voice back to its roots.

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Wall Street Versus America was published by Penguin USA on April 6.
Click here for its Amazon.com listing and here for more information on the book, from my web site.

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