Tonight at midnight, the three-year contract at the Village Voice expires, so Voice workers held a strike benefit at Williamsburg's Public Assembly last night. The bands were really loud and the crowd drank a lot.
The crowd was heavy with, yes, Village Voice staffers and their friends, as well as a handful of former-Voice employees there to show their support. Ex-employees in attendance included: Zach Baron (who left The Voice for The Daily back in March), Foster Kamer (of the New York Observer), and Tom Robbins (the influential writer who left the paper after the departure of long time columnist Wayne Barrett). Robbins' appearance was perhaps the biggest "screw you" move of the night and was a reminder of the ever-more-corporate Village Voice. As was the arrival at the paper of Nick Pinto from the Village Voice Media's (the parent company of The Village Voice) Minneapolis weekly City Pages.
Back in March, Pinto wrote the nationally printed and murky Voice cover story "Women's Funding Network Sex Trafficking Study Is Junk Science." The story defends Village Voice Media's ownership of the classified site Backpage.com.
Backpage.com allows "adult ads" to be posted; last year a 15-year-old sex trafficking victim sued VVM for aiding and abetting prostitution. This week's piece, by Martin Cizmar, Ellis Conklin and Kristen Hinman—which doesn't have a lot of fans on the staff—was called "Real Men Get Their Facts Straight." Billed online as "The Truth Behind Sex Trafficking," it targets Ashton Kutcher's "Real Men Don't Buy Girls" campaign against U.S. underage sex trafficking.
The piece also pokes fun at estimates of underage sex workers, using arrest records from American cities. Because obviously the number of minors arrested for prostitution must somehow explain the number of minors in the sex business, right? A sidebar to the piece also blamed "feminists, religious zealots" and others for bringing Craigslist's adult services section to a Congressional hearing.
A while after attendees of the benefit stumbled home from last night's party, Ashton Kutcher took to Twitter to berate the Voice for their cover story.
Hey @villagevoice REAL MEN DON'T BUY GIRLS and REAL NEWS PUBLICATIONS DON'T SELL THEM
Kutcher's 11 angry tweets to his seven million followers were apparently only the beginning.
Hey @villagevoice I'm just getting started!!!!!!!! BTW I only PLAYED stupid on TV.
The Voice answered back this morning.
Meanwhile, Voice editor Tony Ortega took the time to joke about the union negotiations.
We hear Village Voice Media's Executive Editor Mike Lacey is going to take control (has taken control?) of the Voice's Twitter account today to fire back at Ashton. [UPDATE: We are told we hear wrong.]
Disclosures: Myles Tanzer worked previously at the Voice; The Awl is happily pro-labor.