Jerry Portwood is the editor of the New York Press, and he does a lot of theater reviews. Like lots of theater reviewers, he gets free tickets for plays from publicists. But last week, he was abruptly disinvited and taken off the list for the play "The Sexual Neuroses of Our Parents," just before he was scheduled to attend. The reason: the play's publicist didn't like a NY Press story that pointed out that the play's publicists were marketing it by hyping up the fact that Meryl Streep's daughter is a cast member. Losing a pair of free tickets isn't the world's biggest tragedy, but it brings up the interesting question: How are flacks supposed to handle bad press? Answer: a lot better than this. The shortest bit of advice that smart PR people can take about bad press is to just suck it up. Nobody likes a negative review, but you have to take the long view of things. Cutting off news outlets for one story you didn't like is the equivalent of selling all your stocks as soon as the market has a bad day; a panicky way to ensure that you get nothing good in the future. Jerry Portwood tells us that when he spoke to the PR guy in question,
A tipster tells us that the Village Voice laid off the man who oversaw its print ad production department this week, due to budget cuts. One rumor going around the office, we hear: the possibility that the production of the Voice could be outsourced to Florida. That would be rather sad. Another rumor: the possibility that more layoffs at the Voice could be coming tomorrow. That would also be sad. They're getting down to the bone marrow over there. Anyone with more info, email us. [UPDATE: An official source at the Voice tells us that the man laid off was "a part-time production employee who had until recently been a freelancer," and that he didn't oversee the print ad production department. Of the outsourcing to Florida rumor, the source says it's "Pure fantasy."]
More layoffs at the Village Voice have been confirmed: staff writers Maria Luisa Tucker and Sean Gardiner (who was a fine police beat reporter and good guy). Budgetary reasons were reportedly the cause. Further, "The paper’s copy chief also resigned in protest after the deputy copy chief was laid off Wednesday." This after the layoffs late last week of sex columnist Tristan Taormino and photo editor Staci Schwartz. Dayum, what a crappy Friday this is. [via Pop and Politics]
Ben Eason, the CEO of alt-weekly chain Creative Loafing—which declared bankruptcy this week—has a vision for the future of his publications. And that vision is to be like Huffington Post Chicago. Huh? Here's what he wants, and here's our free quality advice to him, before he fucks up some of the nation's best alt-weeklies for good:
Tristan Taormino, the "Pucker Up" sex columnist who has been with the Village Voice for nine years, was laid off on Friday, she confirmed to Gawker today. Voice editor Tony Ortega told her she was a victim of budget cuts. We also hear that the ailing alt-weekly's photo editor, Staci Schwartz, was recently laid off [UPDATE: more on Schwartz here]. Older, more expensive employees appear to be getting the axe (thought Taormino, at least, has a pornography career to fall back on). Anyone with further info on Voice layoffs, email us.
Creative Loafing, the conglomerate that owns the alt-weeklies in DC, Atlanta, Chicago, and several other cities, has filed for bankruptcy. The company has more than $40 million of debt, a number exacerbated by its purchases of the Chicago Reader and Washington City Paper last year. This may be just a foreshadowing of some painful days to come for alt-weeklies in general—we also hear the Village Voice may be on the verge of some layoffs. Creative Loafing CEO Ben Eason tried to put a positive spin on the move as one that will allow the company to reorganize safely without hurting quality:
The business of selling magazine subscriptions door-to-door is surprisingly shady. It consists largely of crews of young people-some under 18-recruited by (often) criminal characters who haul them around the country in vans, releasing them only to make their way through neighborhoods, using any lies necessary to tug the heartstrings of people enough to get them to buy something. Then all the kids are rounded up again, given their meager cut of the profits, and they all go do drugs. Sometimes they rape people, or drive off cliffs. The Houston Press just put out a monster investigation of the industry, and it shows a long but clear path from the offices of Conde Nast out to the wild kids hustling in the hinterlands. And there are some true horror stories:
Is the entire staff of the Village Voice preparing to jump off a cliff together? The NY Press reports that the once-mighty downtown alt-weekly, which has seen its editorial and business-side staff hacked to pieces since it was bought by New Times two years ago, is on the verge of a walkout over contract issues. Voice stalwart Tom Robbins says if the union there doesn't get what it wants, "all bets are off." The problem here: this paper is in dire economic straits and would surely welcome a good excuse to lay off its entire staff and start over with an all-24-year-old writing staff, at $30,000 apiece. Strikes at shaky print outlets have become totally counterproductive. New Times boss Mike Lacey is probably rubbing his hands in glee at the prospect. But hey, we hope we're wrong! (UPDATE: We're told a strike is set for July 1 if a suitable contract isn't in place). [NY Press]
New York Press editor David Blum has some of the worst instincts we've seen when it comes to sex columnists. While at the Village Voice, he fired popular sex columnist Rachel Kramer Bussel. Then he hired two married women to replace her and they were sucktastic and they all got fired. When he got to the Press, Blum sent the sex columnist packing, replaced her with Kelly Kreth, who he fired two months later and replaced with the experienced Claudia Lonow, whose resignation he accepted yesterday, a day after her first column and one hour after Jezebel pointed out she'd lifted material for her column. Interesting tidbit! Lonow was a consulting producer on the ABC drama 'Cashmere Mafia'-guess who else on the show has the exact same job description? Blum's wife, television writer Terri Minsky. Yeah, we need a nap too. But today Blum may have himself a halfway decent idea.
One day after her first column hit the streets, the New York Press has accepted the resignation of its sex columnist, after Jezebel pointed out similarities between Claudia Lonow's column and the work of Village Voice Media sex columnist Dan Savage. Lonow was "unaware that using questions from Savage's column was a breach of journalism ethics," reads the statement from editor David Blum."We apologize to our readers, and to Dan Savage, for this error in judgment." [NYPress]
ArtsJournal blog 'Modern Art Notes' has a well-argued post today alleging that Voice art critic Christian Viveros-Faune's position as co-director of two major art fairs is an inherent conflict of interest. "The arrangement puts a Village Voice art critic in bed with a major art market player," Tyler Green writes. He makes two significant points-that Viveros-Faune's work in the Voice has the power to advance the commercial prospects of artists he's got a business interest in and more disturbing, that by ignoring an exhibit, he has a good chance of squelching its success. Determining who might have been wronged by the one-time Roebling Hall gallery-owner's conflict would be pretty much impossible. Does any of this matter?
Yesterday we heard the Village Voice newsroom might be headed for another round of budget cuts. Last year the paper saw quite a bit of editorial turnover—at least 15 staffers we can think of quit or were let go. In December, the paper fired its new art director. But any additional cuts coming down the pike are likely to come instead from the business side of the weekly, which recently made employees skittish by dismissing a well-liked and longtime support staffer. Rumors of further downsizing are afoot. Stay tuned.
Previously: Village Voice Fires Art Director