Blood Boiling at the Voice

There is boiling blood and word of a possible walkout at the Village Voice in the light of a management decision to cut writers' payments at the frequently fractious alternative weekly. Voice Here's an update in the New York Post:



Enraged staffers at the Village Voice are threatening to walk out if the fabled alternative weekly makes good on its pledge to slash the rates it pays its writers, according to sources inside the paper.

Last week Voice Editor in Chief Don Forst announced that many payments would be cut by 20 to 45 percent. In response, longtime Voice writer Robert Christgau sent a letter to Voice staffers in which he declared: "We at the Voice are not taking this lying down."

"As someone who's devoted his life to quality journalism, I'm outraged, disgusted, and sick at heart," Christgau wrote.

Staffers have yet to receive written confirmation of the new rates, but fury at management has already begun to boil over.

"They've managed to make everyone who writes for the Voice very angry," said one staffer who insisted on anonymity, citing a "retaliatory" atmosphere at the paper. "It seems like every day there is a closed-door meeting."

The staffer said the paper claims to be responding to budget pressures, but many are skeptical of that. The staffer said that written confirmation of the new rates is expected "early this week," and union action could immediately follow. The strife comes amid swirling rumors that the Voice is in merger talks with New Times, which publishes alternative weeklies across the country. The new rates would put the Voice more in line with the rates New Times pays its writers, the staffer said.

Maida Rosenstein, president of Local 2110 of the U.A.W, which represents Voice writers, said that she is still scrutinizing the rate cuts, but she didn't like the look of them.

"This is very upsetting us," Rosenstein said. "We need to investigate the details very carefully, because they may be violating our contract."

Rosenstein said she was particularly disturbed because the union had just finished negotiating a new contract with Voice management.

And here's aforementioned letter Christgau sent to his colleagues that was reprinted on Jim Romenesko's Poynter site. Christgau letter

As the Post piece notes, this internal drama comes against a continuing backdrop of rumors and gossip about a possible merger betwen the Voice and the New Times chain that would dramatically shake up the world of alternative journalism and raise disturbing questions about media consolidation in that corner of the newspaper industry. Check out rumor

Here's a fuller, albeit earlier take on the subject. San Francisco Bay Guardian
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