The Village Voice finally has a new editor-in-chief, Erik Wemple, formerly the editor of Washington City Paper, it was announced on Wednesday. The New York Times was the first to carry the story, and it's still hard to say whether Wemple will toe the Michael Lacey/New Times line, or strike out on his own with the type of strong progressive advocacy journalism The Voice was known for before Lacey got a hold of it.
But it doesn't look good. According to the Times story, Mr. Wemple "will probably represent a break from The Voice's generally left-wing coverage." "My ideology and the whole New Times ideology preaches loyalty to the great story," he said. "I really don't care if a story begins with leftist sympathies, and I really don't care if a story begins from a more conservative set of sympathies. If it's a great story, we're going to report it out."
In an interview in the Columbia Journalism Review, Wemple lamented the "very predictable" nature of alt-weeklies, i.e. "slamming Bush," being "snide to right-to-lifers" and calling "the landlord evil." But, ahem, shouldn't alt-weeklies be doing all the above? According to Wemple, the answer is no, because that would be "predictable."
Still, Wemple has excoriated a number of publications for going along with the Bushies' war. "Last winter, as the Bush administration rushed the country toward an invasion of Iraq, the editorial departments of some leading U.S. publications sounded a lot like Vice President Dick Cheney," he wrote for the Washington City Paper.
And in a "leftwing" cover story, he and co-writer John Metcalfe criticized the Washingtonian magazine for being predominately white. "The Washingtonian’s editorial division has been majority-white-owned and -operated for a good long time," they wrote. "One can only wonder how the Washingtonian has weathered nearly four decades of Census fluctuations to remain among the whitest magazines not regularly publishing features on the Confederate flag."
Wemple's biggest beef seems to be the media, in fact -- one of his main targets while at the Washington City Paper was big local rival the Washington Post). It looks like media coverage may get a revival at the Voice, after Sydney Schanberg left awhile ago and the Press Clips column was abandoned. According to the Times story, Wemple is going to hire a media writer and an arts business reporter.
Also in the Times story, Michael Lacey said he wanted to expand the paper's theater section. He also said there "were no plans to use a centralized staff of arts reviewers who would work for the various Voice Media papers"--which is odd, because that's exactly what he's done, cycling film reviews like everyone's favorite L.A. critic Luke Y. Thompson in papers all across the country.