The comments roll in on the search for endorsements in Village Voice/New Times papers. Is it a snipe hunt? Does Dan Savage or Mike Lacey have the real balls?


I put out a call to the alternative press across the country to see if anybody could spot an endorsement or strong political story in pre-election issues of Village Voice/New Times papers. (Scroll to the bottom for some vintage Mike Laceyism and some answers to the pressing question of the day: who has the real balls: Dan Savage or Mike Lacey?

The OC Weekly in Orange County did endorsements this year, but that appeared to be the only one of the l7 Voice/New Times papers that did. I also asked Voice/New Times CEO Jim Larkin and Editor in chief Mike Lacey, as well as the new Voice editor David Blum for their comments and for their rationale for not running endorsements in one of the most important mid-year elections in U.S. history. No reply. Here are a few of the replies that came to me by private email:

From: Ron Kretsch, Art Director, Cleveland Free Times, which competes with the Voice/New Times-owned Cleveland Scene

Sending the entire altweekly industry on a snipe-hunt, Bruce? Niiiiiiice.

(B3 comment: Back where I come from, at Camp Foster on Lake Okoboji in northwest Iowa, we called it whippenpoof hunting. But we never found any.)

Actually, I found something - Derf has this in the obScene this week: Cleveland Scene Election 2006. Then again, you did specify "serious coverage" - yeah, go ahead, post my comment. I doubt I'll have much crow to eat.

And yeah, we had pretty substantive election coverage - I think in terms of quantity of coverage we actually outdid our election '04 issue, which by my reckoning has never happened before for a midterm or an off-year. Even some obscure-seeming judicial races got the flashlight shined on 'em. It worked out to be a pretty damn fine issue.

From: an East Coast blogger
Okay, I'll play. Here's a story broken by Bob Norman in Broward-Palm Beach that could have a big impact on the gubernatorial race there.
Broward Palm Beach

You won't find endorsements, of course, because they don't do any. But you will find coverage of the elections. Bob Norman down in south Florida (who wrote the piece I just sent you) is one of their good reporters on the politics beat.

(B3 comment: Thanks, glad to see an election story in a New Times paper in Florida. But they still didn't do endorsements. And I'm still looking for someone who can tell me the reason for this policy.)

From: Jonny Diamond , editor in chief of The L Magazine in New York City

Yes, the Savage stuff is in, but it's the only thing remotely related to the election in the entire issue. This is the cover story: Village Voice Cover Story - remarkable stuff from the country's formerly foremost alt-weekly on the eve of the most important midterm election in a long, long time.

I'd say this is the final, no-doubt-about-it end of the Voice. As for our own coverage, we're working on something for Friday... best Jonny Diamond

It is as silly as it seems. The movie stuff is atrocious. The cover stories laughable. And people are noticing. Here's our endorsement, btw. The L Magazine Endorsements. I'd really appreciate if you could link to this, it deals explicitly with the The Voice's failure to step up. Thanks, jd

(B3 comment: Perhaps this is a snapshot of the situation in New York. The Voice, a liberal bastion in New York for its entire history, endorser in all elections, didn't endorse or even run a strong election story in its pre-election issue or an explanation of its knuckling under to the New Times template. However, the L Magazine, a a relatively new arts and entertainment fortnightly, did, happily and with gusto and with every intention of beating the Voice/New Times in every election hereafter. Note its coverage in the link above.)


From: a Manhattan media watcher

Bruce, they don't have anyone on staff at the Voice any more who is either competent or even interested in covering local politics. It's just way too cerebral for any of them now. Sad to say, but it's all fluffernutter stuff. Anything above 34th Street doesn't exist.


From: Anthony Pignataro (former OC Weekly staffer)

Editor, Maui Time Weekly
This week's OC Weekly has tons of political coverage, including this list of actual endorsements: OC Weekly

(B3: at last, a Voice/NewTimes paper that made endorsements, the OC Weekly in Orange County. So Will Swaim, a strong liberal editor, joins Dan Savage, the gay sex columnist, as the only two who got endorsements into New Times papers. How did Will do it? I sent him an email but didn't hear by blogtime.)

From: The Association of Alternative Newsweeklies
Speculation About VVM's L.A. Moves 'Simply Silly,' Lacey Says
From: LA Observed
Dear kids: Meyerson sad about Contreras piece
Lacey on Meyerson and LA Observed

Scene at the Weekly
Stewart gives notice
On Jill Stewart at the Weekly
Big turmoil at the Weekly

(B3: There was so much turmoil at the LA Weekly that it was hard to tell what happened this year. Harold Meyerson "quit" writing his excellent political column and no endorsements appeared in the paper, though the paper has for years been a traditional endorser and many ex-staffers and ex-managers were pushing for endorsements this year.)

Meanwhile, the LA Observed media site summed up the Weekly's sudden knuckling under to Voice/New Times non endorsement policy: "Since the Weekly has dropped its well-read pre-elecition endorsements, City Beat (B3: the competitive alternative in LA) has jumped in to fill the void. The paper backs Democrats for all the state offices except Governor (no endorsement) and insurance commissioner (Steve Poizner over Cruz Bustamente.) Locally, they recommend yes on H and no on R." And they give a link to the full list.

Meyerson addressed the issue in a farewell email to the staff (see link above) in which he addresses the New Times template: "The paper's decision, for the first time since forever, not to run endorsements makes that even clearer (that Lacey/New Times have have forced a reverse in editorial policy). Tha's unfortunate, but it's no disgrace. But becoming a tabloid in the New Times model is absolutely a disgrace. The New Times model churns out 'gotcha' news stories, it snipes at an undifferentiated establishment, it makes little effort to understand larger social issues at work in a city (that would require deviations from the model), it has a weakness for rants. It produces columns like 'LA Sniper,' in the Jill Stewart mode of reducing commentary to drive-by shootings..." (B3: Stewart is the new deputy editor in charge of news and wrote in her last independently syndicated column that
she was "thrilled to be joining the Village Voice Media chain under Mike Lacey."

More on Lacey's management style: In a letter responding to Meyerson's criticism of the LA Weekly (see above link), he sums up: "But the reasons why Meyerson's contract with LA Weekly was not renewed transcend finance and are on display in his embarrassing note to the staff. His ethical lapses, motivated by decades of cronyism, are aggravated by his insufferable pomposity.

"'Hey, Kids,' is his salutation.

" 'Hey, Hack,' is my response."

(B3: Lacey, for all his lathering and steaming, still does not address the fundamental issue of why the New Times and now, sadly, the Voice papers, refuse to endorse. So once again: Is there someone somewhere, inside or outside the Voice/New Times, who can say why their papers do not endorse in any election and in particular in a extraordinarily critical election that amounts to a referendum on Bush, the war, the occupation, and his domestic policies?

What's Lacey and the New Times afraid of? Of annoying their advertisers? Of giving up control to local chain editors who may (gasp!) be more liberal than the gang in Phoenix? Are they worried their endorsments would disclose just how cynical Lacey and the New Times are in their politics and in their view of the cities in which they have papers? MIke? Mike? You sound real big and tough, writing from a safe haven in corporate headquarters in Phoenix, and attacking as a hack a highly respected liberal LA Weekly veteran.

(Could you explain why Dan Savage, the gay sex columnist, has the only real endorsements in all the Voice/New Times papers in his sex column (excepting the OC Weekly, bless their hearts)? Why do you and the Voice/New Times contiinue to duck the tough issues and endorsements in election after election as a matter of institutional policy? As you will recall, Dan went into Pennsylvania at a critical moment in the campaign and gave Sen. Rick Santorum some much justified trouble on the gay family issue. if Santorum goes down, Dan can take some credit. What can you and the Voice/New Times say about the way you wimped through another election? Why does Dan have the balls and you do not? Mike?

B3, working hard in San Francisco to create and perpetuate San Francisco Values (note: SF Chronicle head yesterday: THREE DIRTY WORDS: SAN FRANCISCO VALUES, front page, lead story, big type, no blushing)