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New Sheriff at the Voice

Maybe I'm reading to much into this appointment, but there's certainly an irony -- if not a stronger message -- in selecting a Washington journalist to edit the Village Voice. In any event, good luck to Erik Wemple as he goes about trying to transform an aging journalistic icon into a more vital and immediate publication while still retaining its core appeal.

One thing's for sure. Wemple is saying the right things, given the Voice's new owners' clear preference for long narrative and investigative pieces and professed disdain for commentary and punditry. To wit:

Reached by phone in Washington, D.C., Wemple said management's editorial approach just felt right. "It seems that what they were looking for was the same thing I'd been trying to do here," he said. "We like news. We like magazine-style narratives. We like to do investigative. We like to get very low to the ground, reporting street stories. I'm not going to say that I ever perfected the model, but that’s the altar I worship at for alt-weekly newspapering."

And this excerpt from the New York Times story reinforces my sense that the Wemple pick was -- in part -- new Voice owner Mike Lacey's way of taking New York down a peg.

Given The Voice's devotion to the New York political and cultural scene, Mr. Wemple is an unorthodox choice. A native of Schenectady, N.Y., he has spent his entire journalistic career in Washington, where he has worked as a writer and political columnist for Washington City Paper and for short stints as Washington correspondent for Inside.com, an online media magazine, now defunct, and at Cable World Magazine, a trade publication. He never even set foot in New York for his interview for the Voice job.

Mr. Wemple acknowledged the challenge he faces, having never lived or worked in New York. "It's a huge place I know very little about, and it's important for me to be very upfront about that," he said in a telephone interview. Nor has he been a lifelong Voice reader. Until earlier this year, the editor's job at The Voice "wasn't even on my radar screen because I've been so deliriously happy at the Washington City Paper," he said. "I could barely see beyond the Potomac."

Michael Lacey, executive editor of Village Voice Media, said Mr. Wemple had been chosen from a slate of a dozen serious candidates. "He's just a really smart guy," said Mr. Lacey, speaking by phone from Phoenix. "So many journalists have interests that are fairly narrowly defined: they're either a hard news person or a Web person or a feature or a culture person, and Erik really is across the board."

As for Mr. Wemple's outsider status, Mr. Lacey said, "That's just a thing that New Yorkers are going to have to get over.

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