News & Politics

UPDATE: ‘Voice’ Editor Quits Before He Starts

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Erik Wemple, newly appointed editor of the Village Voice, visited the paper’s staff on Monday, explaining his philosophy for running a newspaper and laying down a few rules. Get out in the streets, he advised. If you want lunch with me, sit down at my desk where I’ll be eating turkey with lettuce and yellow mustard. Please be on time for meetings, he said, and no putting “tender age of” in your copy.

Wemple took long pulls from a bottle of water and talked to what seemed a generally receptive crowd of editors and writers for about 90 minutes. He said the fabled top-down style of the Voice’s new owners would be a learning experience for him as well as for the rank and file–an experience he sounded game for, as he had during an interview the day his hiring was announced.

He was to start on July 24.

Then, on Thursday afternoon, management of Village Voice Media told Voice staff that Wemple guy had left the building for good. Key quote from the release:

Although Wemple accepted the job of editor-in-chief of the historic Voice–even introducing himself to the staff–subsequent discussions revealed disagreements over newsroom management.

“Erik’s concerns are not unreasonable,” said Michael Lacey, executive editor of Village Voice Media. “The Voice is an enormous and complex horse race. We asked Erik to mount several ponies mid-stride, and he was alarmed to find us still in several of those saddles.”

Wemple said he has been told he can keep his position as editor-in-chief at Washington City Paper. He declined to answer questions about the Voice job and instead offered this written statement:

I’m sorry to say that I will not be taking the editor’s position at the
Village Voice. I met with the staff earlier this week and very much enjoyed
our time together. However, the paper’s ownership and I have failed to come
to terms in our many discussions about moving forward, particularly with
respect to newsroom management. I continue to believe that the people at
Village Voice Media are committed to a great editorial product, as
evidenced by the great newspapers that they publish across the country, and
I’m confident that the Voice will produce excellent journalism under their
guidance.

Now someone will have to replace Wemple, who was to have replaced interim editor-in-chief Ward Harkavy, who replaced acting editor Doug Simmons, who replaced longtime editor-in-chief Don Forst. Wemple would have been the first editor under the new management of Village Voice Media after the merger this year of the old Village Voice Media and the other goliath of alt-weekly publishing, New Times.

The full e-mailed release from management follows:

June 15, 2006

This morning Erik Wemple announced that he’d changed his mind about becoming editor of the Village Voice. A new father, Wemple decided to remain in his old position as the editor at City Paper in Washington, D.C.

We wish him well.

Although Wemple accepted the job of editor-in-chief of the historic Voice–even introducing himself to the staff–subsequent discussions revealed disagreements over newsroom management.

“Erik’s concerns are not unreasonable,” said Michael Lacey, executive editor of Village Voice Media. “The Voice is an enormous and complex horse race. We asked Erik to mount several ponies mid-stride, and he was alarmed to find us still in several of those saddles.”

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