Scientology Watchers: A Message from Tony Ortega


Tony O goes Clear!

To the readers of this blog…

Today, Paul Thomas Anderson’s movie The Master opens in a few theaters here, and the media reaction has been electric. We’ve all watched as interest in Scientology has skyrocketed this summer, and it seems to have reached some kind of culmination this week with Anderson’s movie in theaters and Maureen Orth’s story on the cover of Vanity Fair.

I’ve decided to take advantage of this moment to change directions. Next week will be my last as editor of the Voice; I will be leaving to pursue a book proposal about Scientology in its time of crisis.

I could not even begin to contemplate that kind of move without the experience I’ve had with the loyal readers of this blog. I started writing about Scientology seventeen years ago, but in the last two years I tried a new experiment — blogging about Scientology’s many global controversies in a consistent, nearly daily frequency. In 2011 and 2012, I published 465 blog posts about Scientology — and many of them contained multiple stories. (Recently, I posted a list of some of the most significant of those pieces.)

Many of those stories I could not have produced without the involvement and aid of our amazing commenting community. Your tips and knowledgeable analysis have made this blog live and breathe. I regret that at least for now, this show is going off the air. But perhaps soon, as I pursue my new goals, I’ll be able to post a story here and there in another venue. I hope you’ll look for me when that happens.

UPDATE: Some local journalists, who apparently don’t know what a good time we’ve been having here at the blog, seem confused about why I’d write a farewell note to our amazing commenting community. They seem to be taking this post as my farewell to the people of the Voice itself, which is not the case.

To help them out, I’m posting here the e-mail that I sent to my staff this morning.

For some time now, I’ve been talking to Mike and Christine about a project I have in mind, and now seems like the right moment to pull the trigger. With Scientology on the cover of mainstream magazines and in theaters, I figure it’s a sign that I should take my own chances at a book proposal about the church in crisis. For that reason, next week will be my last here at the Voice.

You all know how much I’ve enjoyed my tenure here. Arts editor Brian Parks and I were fortunate enough to celebrate with Michael Feingold when he was named a Pulitzer finalist for his brilliant theater criticism. Editing Graham Rayman’s “NYPD Tapes” series was a highlight of my career. I am indebted to writers like Roy Edroso who helped us transform the Voice into a daily digital enterprise. And Nat Hentoff recently gave me too much credit for having a passionate interest in the early history of this newspaper, something I indulged in my three-year Clip Job project.

Thanks for helping me get back some of that early Voice spirit over the last five and a half years, even as we were dealing with the Print Apocalypse in general, and a building seemingly forever under construction in particular. I’m looking forward to visiting you when you get into the new digs in the spring — maybe this time the elevator will be worth a damn.

Seriously, you’ve made working here the best job I’ve ever had, and over the next week I look forward to speaking to each of you about what it’s meant to pull these oars together. Let’s do it over some beers, preferably.