Left-Wing Village Voice Not Liberal But Heroically 'Muckraking'

After the shock departure of two of its veteran reporters, Jeremy Peters ponders the future of the "muckraking" Village Voice, without a hint of its proud tradition of counter-cultural leftism.

Jeremy Peters reported on the huge hole blown the staff of the left-wing alternative Manhattan newsweekly Village Voice by the departure of two old-school reporters: "2 Veterans Leave Village Voice, Whose Muckraking They Defined."

Everyone in Manhattan knows the Voice is the left-wing counter-cultural newspaper. (Sample article title: "I'm Pro-Choice and I F***"). Yet the words "liberal," "left-wing," even the euphemism "progressive" are absent from Peters' story. (He does call The Nation Institute "liberal," though even that understates the leftist stance of The Nation magazine.)

Standing in place of those missing L-words is the more flatteringly scrappy M-word: "muckrakers."

What becomes of New York's most formidable muckraking paper when two of its greatest muckrakers are gone?

The Village Voice, the granddaddy of alternative weeklies, which enlivened political and investigative journalism in New York through its scrappy, hold-nothing-sacred approach, has lost Wayne Barrett and Tom Robbins, two journalists who helped define the paper's modern era.


"With the loss of Wayne and Tom, they lost Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle," said Don Forst, who was editor of The Voice from 1996 to 2005 and edited the work of both men

Mr. Forst said their departures left the paper, which had already been downsized considerably in the last decade, greatly diminished. "It was a great institution for what it was," he said. "It was not The Times. It wasn't The Post. It was The Village Voice. And I think it was the role model for all folk alternative papers. I don't know what they have left."

Peters laid on the personal flattery as well as the professional kind:

But through it all, Mr. Barrett and Mr. Robbins were fixtures - not only of their storied newspaper but also of the New York City press corps. Mr. Robbins, who first worked at The Voice in the mid-1980s, then departed for The Daily News and returned in 2000, is known for an encyclopedic knowledge of city politics and a big heart (he donated one of his kidneys to a friend). He earned a reputation as an equal opportunity exposer of corruption, regardless of political affiliation.