Wednesday, December 31, 2008

VILLAGE VOICE LAYS OFF NAT HENTOFF, BEST CIVIL LIBERTIES JOURNALIST IN COUNTRY

NY Times - The troubled Village Voice laid off three employees, including Nat Hentoff, the prominent columnist who has worked for the paper since 1958, contributing opinionated columns about jazz, civil liberties and politics. . .

“Nat Hentoff wrote liner notes for every great musician that I’ve ever loved, from Billie Holiday to Bob Dylan and Aretha Franklin, and that’s not even what he’s been writing about for the last 30 years,” said Tom Robbins, a Voice staff writer.

Founded in 1955, The Village Voice was sold in 2005 to New Times Media, a Phoenix-based publisher of alternative weeklies that later changed its name to Village Voice Media. Calls for comment from Jim Larkin, the chief executive of Village Voice Media, and Tony Ortega, who was hired as Village Voice editor in 2007, were not returned.

Mr. Robbins estimated that since the sale, The Voice has laid off about half of its staff. “I understand they have serious advertising revenue problems, but they don’t seem to be able to sit there and just talk about them with their own work force to deal with these problems,” he said.

In an article in the current issue of The New Yorker about The Voice, Louis Menand wrote, “Until its own success made it irresistible to buyers who imagined that they could do better with a business plan than its founders had done from desperation and instinct, it had the courage to live by its wits.”

Mr. Hentoff said he learned the news in a phone call with Mr. Ortega on Tuesday morning. “I’m 83 and a half. You’d think they’d have let me go silently,” he said. “Fortunately, I’ve never been more productive.”

Mr. Hentoff plans to continue to write a weekly column for the United Media syndicate and contribute pieces to The Wall Street Journal. His book “At the Jazz Band Ball: 60 Years on the Jazz Scene,” is expected next year.

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