The New Yorker’s Ken Auletta was unkind to the pre-New Times Village Voice in an interview with Sherman. Auletta himself started out at the Voice in the early ’70s.
“The original Voice was an iconoclastic newspaper,” Auletta told Sherman. “Increasingly, the paper became predictable. You would pick up a headline and know what’s in a story. Despite the fact it’s now free, you’d walk by it and not read it because you’d know what’s in it. I suppose I’m being unfair because I wasn’t reading it that often. And maybe I missed it, but there were few surprises.”
That was 2005. It was probably true then. For every newspaper, there are big seasons and small ones. In 2005 it was hard to imagine what the Voice could tell us. Its position in the city’s self-conception was always the loudmouth iconoclast, the chafing underclass, the passionate voice of people who could not afford not to watch government because it was a constant uninvited part of their lives. We were just getting used to a post-9/11 city, a city where everyone was coming together and where all problems, except the terrible threat from outside, seemed soluble.
It was getting cleaner and nicer; semi-suburban idylls were popping up in Brooklyn and Queens and even the Bronx. We were just beginning to enjoy ourselves and we weren’t ready to wonder whether we were wasting our lives on five-dollar macchiatos and kitchen renovations. New York in 2005 was, to put it bluntly, losing its edge, sliding into a comfortable spot in the American monoculture that embraced us after Sept. 11.
The ubiquity of that bland, straight-up commercial culture that, like the old Catholic mass, feels the same wherever in the world you are, was in full throttle. Michael Bloomberg had made the city seem friendly, prosperous, eco-aware, health-conscious, and even polite.
But recently the cracks have started forming, because this, really, is never what New York will be.
The most significant protest movement in recent memory was a middle-class bohemian nonconformist drum party on Wall Street; MTV is bringing back its little artist segments, focusing on downtown scenesters. A distinctly New York counternarrative is emerging, and the internet offers lots of perspective on it, some of it brilliant. But it feels disjointed and strangely underconceptualized, without anyone successfully pulling all the threads together. This should be a great time for the Village Voice.