Village Voice newspapers split from Backpage

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Village Voice Media sold its newspapers to a company formed by some of its managers, the company announced Sunday. VVM publishes alt-weeklies including The Village Voice, Seattle Weekly, and Denver’s Westword.

The new company, Voice Media Group, will be based in Denver.

VVM cofounders Michael Lacey and Jim Larkin will retain ownership of Backpage.com, the controversial online-classifieds site. Lacey described his decision as a “retirement from journalism,” The Arizona Republic’s Michael Kiefer reports. Lacey told Kiefer the noise surrounding Backpage was making it hard for the papers’ editors to do their jobs.

“That’s something the local editors don’t need to be defusing every morning when they wake up,” he said.

The Wall Street Journal’s Keach Hagey reports, “The deal comes as alternative papers struggle to cope with competition from the Web, including blogs.”

The Village Voice, for instance, has seen its circulation fall 40%—from about 247,000 to 149,000—since 2006, the year that it was bought by Messrs. Larkin’s and Lacey’s company, according to the Audit Bureau of Circulations.

Village Voice Editor Tony Ortega resigned Sept. 14. The company has advertised his position.

The new company will be led by Scott Tobias, VVM’s former chief operating officer. “I’ve always wanted to own the company,” Tobias told Forbes’ Jeff Bercovici.

Joining him on the new management team are Christine Brennan, who will serve as executive editor across the company, and Jeff Mars, who becomes chief financial officer.

Reached by email, VVM Executive Associate Editor Andy Van De Voorde confirmed he will join the new company as well. In a statement to staffers, Lacey and Larkin said they were leaving “to devote our undivided attention to the defense of Backpage.”

Since 1997 we have successfully defended more than 45 lawsuits filed by lawyers attempting to silence us.

But it is also true that the Backpage attacks are different from conventional press issues, if only because the attacks are orchestrated with the often unlimited resources of government funding.

Tobias told The Dallas Morning News’ Tod Robberson the new company “will no longer accept ads or derive income from Backpage.com.” Staffers at the Dallas Observer, a Voice property, “can now start making an honest living and join their colleagues at The Dallas Morning News in the struggle to keep journalism alive using legitimate funding resources,” Robberson writes.

Previously: Village Voice Media says New York Times columnist’s attacks on Backpage.com weren’t factual

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