For 62 years, the beatniks, hippies and bohemians populating Greenwich Village could read and embrace the medium of their collective consciousness. Often fearless and riveting, The Village Voice epitomized the best parts of bygone generations’ progressive and energetic desires to improve the world around them. But no longer. On Aug. 31, roughly a year after shuttering its print publication, that soundly American voice ceased.
Merely one of the hundreds of local newspaper closures and consolidations in the last 20 years, The Village Voice is just the most recent and hardest-hitting for many, especially in the NYU community. Most people are familiar with America’s shifting newspaper industry. The decline of print journalism means the rise of digital publications, which has led to the birth of sensationalist, clickbait reporting. Inadequate reporting leads to the subversion and questioning of truth, which paves the way for Donald Trump and his antagonization of the media. Today’s Trump-centered news cycle is an ignorant one that overlooks far more complex and damaging effects of the journalism industry’s decline.
Concerning impacts on civil and social life are often glossed over because they sound dull or don’t have Trump’s name blazed across the headline. Local papers are generally sentenced to unsexy reporting, which remains unappreciated by surrounding communities. Instead of covering dramatic battles to pass national legislation or to fill Supreme Court vacancies, local journalists investigate, for example, the mismanagement of municipal funding for new schools or the corruption of county board officials. Small-time journalism helps prevent patronage havens, nepotism and malignant corporate influences in communities. In isolation, these effects are small in scope, so when people read those articles, they rarely care. Yet these papers quantifiably improve bond prices, help public hospitals and schools run properly and preserve civic dignity.
Amid the closures, the absence of these services is more harmful than the lack of Trump coverage. If one source doesn’t cover a national news event, many others inevitably will. But local news continues to be neglected. Continuing to spread this voice will not slow down the problem, as the shifting of journalism from one medium to another and the associated effects of such a change are inevitable. Instead of reminiscing about what’s lost, we should identify what is missing in print journalism’s absence and combat these losses in whatever ways we can. The death of The Village Voice has left a void in Greenwich Village, and it is up to the NYU community, which prides itself on being socially and politically responsible, to fill it.
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A version of this article app read in the Monday, Sept. 10 print edition.
Email Mitch Bedows at [email protected]