Wednesday, October 26, 2005

VILLAGE VOICE ove nedelje puni 50 godina

Jedan od najuticajnijih američkih časopisa, Village Voice, ove nedelje puni 50. Voice koji se reklamira kao "možda ne omiljen u Americi, ali svakako najomiljeniji u Njujorku" osnovala je grupa intelektualaca locirana na Greenwich village-u, a prvi kolumnisti bila su i velika književna imena npr. Norman Mejler i mnogi drugi. AGIT-POP je usmeren upravo u pravcu širenja forme personalnog žurnalizma, kao i kritike bez ograničenja koju je VOICE i promovisao, a o sličnosti naših ideja govori i ova sveža kolumna jednog od osnivača, u kojoj govori o stilu pisanja u VV kao i o uređivačkoj politici. ( Bold J.Đ.M.)

I arrived at The Village Voice in 1958 in urgent need of a wide-ranging forum because for years I had been typed by editors as only knowing about jazz. No pay was offered me then, but I was promised that I could write about anything I wanted to. Soon I was immersed in a "newspaper culture" I'd never experienced before. Many of the "assignments" were self-propelled, and the writing had to be in your own voice if you could find it. (This came to be known later as "personal journalism.")
Jack Newfield, who first became known through The Village Voice , used to say that co-founder and first editor in chief Dan Wolf "orchestrated the obsessions of his writers." We were indeed a passionately opinionated motley lot. Dan Wolf prided himself on not hiring anyone with experience as a professional journalist. He wanted writers who hadn't been conditioned to the rules and restraints of the conventional press
There was no party line at the Voice. Dan Wolf hardly ever wrote an editorial. And members of the staff continually differed with one another, not only in the small confines of the office but continually in its pages.

Around that time, I was invited to speak at Harvard to the Nieman fellows, highly regarded professional journalists chosen to spend a year in Cambridge, where they could take any courses they wanted. During my talk, a professor auditing the session said to me in exasperation: "What I can't stand about the Voice is that I have no idea of what its editorial policy is. There's no clean line."
"That," I told him, "is the Voice's policy—to have no party line." This didn't mean there were no times when there was a common stand among these battling writers. I don't remember a single piece supporting the Vietnam War.

The part of the Voice "culture" in those years that encouraged its regular writers to assault one another in the paper was often infuriating to the targets. I'm surprised, in retrospect, there were no fistfights—that I knew of. But this internecine warfare seemed to delight readers, who could take sides, like in a boxing match.
Moreover, readers who actually wanted to get into the ring with us were invited, through a regular Voice feature, Press of Freedom—which I dearly wish was back in the paper. Anyone, known or unknown, could send in a response, in that section, either to Voice writers or to contributors to Press of Freedom.

We also had, and still have, a lively letters-to-the-editor section; but there was more space and more attention paid to the free-for-alls back in the days of Press of Freedom.
I seldom admitted to myself at the time that being a regularly targeted staff writer—in the pages of my own paper—made for more accurate reporting. Some of the sharply pointed factual corrections to what I'd written were sufficiently embarrassing to make me more careful. (We didn't have, in the early years, as persistently demanding a fact-checking department as we do now. As a former staff writer for more than 25 years at The New Yorker, with its legendary fact checkers, I can attest that the current Voice checkers are just as rigorous.) But back in the early days here, the toughest fact checkers were, in our pages, the other writers— and the readers who wrote for Press of Freedom.
Years before the advent of the Internet, the Voice grew in size, as did the range of its readers: Far above 14th Street, beyond the city, it became evident that the paper had established "a community of consciousness." (The phrase was that of my wife, Margot, a former Voice writer and editor.)
I was active on the college lecture circuit during those years—largely because of my Voice columns. And on campuses from Alabama to Wyoming, I found students and faculty members who had discovered the Voice and had joined "the community of consciousness."
The dissonances inside the paper continued, including whether or not to organize a union. Aware that the AFL-CIO had supported the Vietnam War, many of the staff wanted no part of a union. Then Rupert Murdoch bought the paper. His well-known hostility to unions immediately led to a long line of Voice workers from all departments going down to then District 65 (now a part of the United Auto Workers union) to sign up.
Not long ago, I saw Rupert Murdoch at a book party for Judge Andrew Napolitano of Fox News at its New York studios. I reminded Murdoch that I'd once worked for him. He groaned and said, without missing a beat, "Oh, the Voice, the bane of my existence!"
During his regime here, the Voice was, to my knowledge, the only one of his properties that openly and directly criticized him from time to time. At one point, he was so furious at one of our columnists, Alexander Cockburn, that he called the then editor in chief, David Schneiderman, and ordered him to fire Cockburn. Schneiderman did not. Murdoch called him again and threatened, "If you don't fire him, I'll sell the Voice to someone worse than I am!" Schneiderman took the chance.
That was, and is, the spirit of the Voice. And that's why I've stayed here all these years.

Nat Hentoff


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