Tony Ortega, editor of New Times BrowardPalm Beach, has been named editor in chief of The Village Voice.
Ortega, 43, who started his career with New Times (now Village Voice Media) in 1995 at Phoenix New Times, will take the reins at Cooper Square later this week, according to Village Voice Media executive editor Michael Lacey.
"It's something that I've dreamed about for a long time," Ortega said of the Voice editorship. "If you are in the alternative press and you're ambitious, that's always the Mount Everest of the alternative world."
Former Voice editor David Blum was fired last Friday after six months on the job. Lacey contested media reports that Blum's comments on race during last Wednesday's staff meeting were the reason for his termination.
"We had a difference about administrative style, and I did want more news in the paper," Lacey said. "The incidents surrounding the copy meetingnot merely within the copy meetingturned out to be the last straw."
After the staff meeting, Blum apologized "to the party that was most offended," said Lacey. "The problem was, his apology made it worse."
After a four-year stint as a staff writer in Phoenix, Ortega wrote for New Times Los Angeles for three years before returning to become associate editor at Phoenix New Times. He served as managing editor of The Pitch in Kansas City from 2003 to 2005, when he became editor of the 70,000-circulation New Times BrowardPalm Beach.
Ortega lived briefly in New York City as a freshman at Columbia University in the early 1980s. A self-described "half-Mexican California kid," he grew up attending public school in Los Angeles and Orange County before receiving a John Jay National Scholarship to the Ivy League institution in 1981. He left after three semesters, in debt and disillusioned, but said he retained his love for the city.
"I loved living in New York. I had a mohawk at the time, and I remember riding the subway home at three in the morning from the Pep Lounge," he said, referring to the fabled Peppermint Lounge nightclub.
"Lincoln promoted General Grant late in the game," Lacey said. "Stalin promoted Marshall Zukoff late in the game. Tony Ortega is the right man at the right time. He's an accomplished writer and editor."