One of those youthful memories that drifts up for me at various times is seeing a pile of issues of The Village Voice at a friend’s apartment. He liked going through them. Like me, he loved reading and writing. And, if you were serious about writing, you kept up with such publications on a regular basis. Before the internet, The Village Voice was one of those portals that gave you a taste of certain literary trends and urban happenings. It was fun to pore over the pages and even to simply handle this object made of paper, this symbolic series of messages from that bright big city, New York City, the epicenter of all things media and culture. If you aimed to be hip, wanted a ticket to the subculture, you read (and can still read!) The Village Voice. This publication means a lot of things to many people. For me, it was primarily a writer’s magazine. But no longer can you read new print issues, only digital moving forward.
Now, the end has come to that particular experience. The Village Voice has ceased its free print version, a staple of New York City life and urban life beyond. Well, the end occurred a long while back but this is the definitive end: absolutely no more paper copies! Is this really news? I’m not sure that it is as this transition from print to digital has been steadily going on for years. Just like typewriters and phone booths became extinct, so too will all print newspapers bite the dust.
For some steadfast followers of pop culture, they would like to claim some greater significance to the death of the print version of The Village Voice. To be sure, it does seem to be heart-breaking. But, let’s get a grip. All content moving forward is now digital and that’s great. Digital archives are a breeze compared to microfiche or, God forbid, musty old stacks of actual crumbling newsprint. There’s a reason that newspapers have always been printed on the cheapest paper imaginable. They were only meant to be read on the day, or week, they were published and subsequently used for practical purposes like wrapping fish.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I know there are plenty of nerds among us, and I count myself within this group, that can’t help but want to get all sentimental about such things as newspapers. Well, resist that urge. Unless you have more than ample space, say an attic, you don’t want to have a bunch of old copies of this or that newspaper or magazine providing little more than clutter. When was the last time you cracked open that classic issue of Life magazine? Never, right? It’s hard not to be a packrat.
The practical concern over the shift from print to digital is about the various features in the print version surviving the transition. What about the columnists? And what about the cartoonists? Well, what about them? If a content provider is creating compelling content, then that content is going to find an audience, and it will survive the great transition.
For those of you who did not grow up with newspapers, you’re probably wondering what the big fuss is over. Newspapers, just like magazines, used to be far more powerful and influential. People took far more notice of them and relied upon them. Eyes lingered longer on the text, the photographs, the illustrations, and the comic strips! To this day, I have a memory of a distinctive caricature on the front page of The New York Observer. It was 1976, and I was a precocious tween. The cover featured Sen. Hubert Humphrey. It may have been an illustration by Levine. And the headline asked, “Will He Run?”
The bittersweet fact is that we’re saying goodbye to another link with history. Even as a kid, looking at the cover illustration of Humphrey, I knew that it reeked of the past. Humphrey’s image was being rehabilitated. This was before my time but I knew he was part of the Vietnam War, part of a past that we were steadily coming to terms with. Humphrey was part of the discredited past. Jimmy Carter was part of the future. Seeing that newspaper, holding it, reading it, I could tell there was something slow and quaint about this whole format, acting as much as a portal to the present as to the past.
The bittersweet fact is that we are currently experiencing the long goodbye to all print publications. And they won’t go without a fight. For some oddball reason, the print version of Newsweek rose from the dead. It will finally die off soon enough. The publications that are least financially stable will drop out of the print game even sooner. The alt-weeklies, which many of us cherished in our youth, will concede to only being digital. For example, here in Seattle, both The Stranger and The Seattle Weekly already behave very much as digital entities with their weekly print versions mostly serving as a place to highlight the features that appeared on their respective websites that previous week.
Getting back to the features that used to have a secure home in print: the creators of observation pieces and comics should follow their heart as best they can if they can’t follow their wallet. Start a blog. In the age of newspapers, you had to tap dance, beg, and plead to join the party. Those days are over! To all you heavy sentimentalists, don’t forget, we are well into a new century. Dry off those tears. The Village Voice is still alive in the format for a new age. The print version was your dad’s Village Voice. Sorry, but we can only move forward.
One last thing, be sure to actually read, and support, The Village Voice. Just because it’s digital doesn’t mean it can only survive on sentiment. Visit and support The Village Voice right here.
8 responses to “Village Voice Moves From Print to Digital”
That is a depressing sentiment, but those of us who enjoy well written publishing only benefit. The new yorker’s online site is one of the best things ever.
Yes, it is sad. But the good news is that quality content will continue to be produced. I’m not so picky anymore as to how I receive my content. Now and then, I do like to read a print magazine. Of course, then we get into comic books–and just plain books! Oh my. Even there, I tend to just go digital. I do make exceptions. And I do prefer to read print graphic novels and any number of recent hardcovers.
You can’t duplicate the experience of reading something on paper electronically. I am saddened about such moves to an exclusively digital format.
Tony, I do agree with you. I’m just confronting the reality ahead of us. The long steady march to all-digital will just keep picking up pace. Few, if any, entrepreneurs in the future will want to start up a print venture such as a traditional newspaper or magazine. Those two ventures were risky long before the internet. There will always be special print projects of one sort or another. And I would certainly support many of them. However, in the more distant future, perhaps print will just become too much of a nuisance to pursue at all!
hello henry chamberlain its dennis the vizsla dog hay my dada sez he is shoor yoo ar rite and i shud note he has not bawt a payperbak buk in yeerz on akkownt of his kindles and wotnot but stil he sez he is going to keep gitting the payper verzhun of the new yorker for as long as they keep printing it!!! i wunder how long that wil be!!! ok bye
Dennis, The New Yorker is meant to be read in print, for as long as still possible!
Yeah, sadly or not, we do have to move forward. I used to haunt the library every other weekend, and now a part of me is ashamed to say that I find everything I need in my Kindle. I still have a hard copy collection of favorite authors, but here’s one thing people may not think about: it’s SO much easier reading an electronic book in the dark than a print copy with that book light tilting and falling over and not quite illuminating all the page correctly! At least books and papers ARE continuing in other formats. We’re not QUITE in “Idiocracy” yet where nobody remembers how to read…or speak correctly. Not quite…. 🙂
You’re so right, Stacey. I too rely upon my Kindle–and it is very convenient to read at night with it. I do mix it up as much as I can. I was going to say as much as space allows..but it’s just a matter of knowing what to give up. Here in Seattle, and in other cities, there are these little neighborhood “libraries” that look like a cross between a mailbox and birdhouse. I’ve taken books from them and donated some too.