Robert Kasner, 1951-2005


After the editors finished their work on the page you are reading but before you picked up the Voice today, a complex operation somehow got a quarter-million copies of this paper off the press in Melville, Long Island, and delivered to 1,700 locations around the city. Since 1998, circulation director Robert Kasner oversaw that intricate process for The Village Voice and its sister papers around the country.

Last week, Kasner lost his battle with liver cancer. He was 53.

Delivering newspapers is a physical game, one of ink on paper, guys on trucks, and racks on the sidewalk. It’s a process that can unravel because of something as simple as a machine strapping the bundles of paper too tightly or folding them wrong. At most newspapers, that rough-and-tumble world is wholly separate from the realm of writers and editors. But while Kasner could talk the language of printers and truckers, colleagues say, his gentle and thoughtful manner allowed him to straddle the divide at the Voice.

“Bob was able to work with people who were really ‘street’ people, trying to get the job done,” says Voice publisher Judy Miszner. “But he had an amazing intellect and kindness about him.” Even as he crunched numbers and monitored deadlines, Kasner was often seen walking the office holding his copy of The New York Review of Books. “He made people love him,” recalls one staff member. “He knew how to get things done without raising his voice,” says circulation administrator Don Clampet.

Kasner, a Minnesota native, received a B.A. in English from St. Cloud State University. He worked circulation jobs at the St. Cloud Times, then the Minneapolis City Pages, before moving to the national job for Village Voice Media, where his current title was senior vice president and circulation director.

Once here, Kasner helped lead the Voice‘s battle against new city rules that imposed tight restrictions and frequent fines on the free-newspaper industry for offenses like having graffiti on streetside distribution boxes. Voice counsel Susan Meisel, who worked with Kasner to fix the city regs, says Kasner was never the first to speak at a meeting. But when he did talk, she says, “he would have command of everything that was going on there.” And people would listen. Now Los Angeles is considering a similar ordinance, and Kasner had been prepping for that fight by reading drafts of L.A.’s proposed legislation.

Kasner leaves Tricia, his wife of nearly 18 years, and 25-year-old son Ryan. A talented golfer and former president of the homeowners’ association in his Brooklyn neighborhood, Kasner was an avid reader with a particular fondness for history and the fiction of William Faulkner and Graham Greene. He loved the analytical task of delivering newspapers, as well as talking to the people who write them, says wife Tricia, who adds, “I think it was the best of both worlds for him.”

A memorial service will be held Friday, April 1, at 11 a.m. at Christ Church, 326 Clinton Street, Brooklyn. In lieu of flowers, the family is setting up a trust fund to accept donations to support cancer research.