Village Voice Loses Two Legends

Wayne Barrett let go; Tom Robbins quits in protest

Two giants of investigative journalism will no longer be breaking stories for the Village Voice.

Wayne Barrett, a force at the weekly since 1973, its signature political columnist and investigative reporter, said he was let go for "budget reasons."

That bombshell, announced Tuesday, led his friend and fellow columnist, Tom Robbins, to quit in protest.

Mainstays of the alternative weekly, which has been roiled by waves of cuts and layoffs, both men were gracious in weighing the Voice's future without them.

"I gave my life to this paper," said Barrett, 65, the author of several ground-breaking books about New York and its power brokers.  "I hope it continues to be a good paper."

"I hope the Voice continues to do great work," said Robbins who worked there in the '80s and then returned in 2000, both times with Barrett's help.

Barrett tried to talk Robbins out of leaving only to hear this: "He told me, 'I came to the dance with you and I'm leaving with you.'"

Robbins said that he was at peace with his decision: "Wayne Barrett stood for the best of the Voice and when I heard he was going, I felt it was time to move on."

Barrett said that he is headed to the Nation Institute where he will be a fellow; he'll then figure out his next move, perhaps another book or an on line venture.  Robbins said that he is considering some writing projects.

In his farewell column for the Voice, published Tuesday, Barrett remembered taking over the Runnin' Scared column the same January day in 1978 that Mayor Ed Koch took office:  "Ed Koch and I were inaugurated on the same day ... He became mayor and I became his weekly tormentor."

"I turned down other jobs that paid better three times to stay here," Barrett wrote.  "Though my mentor {Jack} Newfield used to say we got our owners 'from office temporaries,' and though I worked for 14 different editors, the Voice was always a place where I could express my voice. And that meant more to me than larger circulations or greater influence or bigger paychecks.

"It is called a writer's paper because we decide what we will write. That is not a license to spout and I never took it as such."

Voice Editor Tony Ortega declined to discuss Barrett or budget considerations at the paper saying "I'm not describing why he's leaving, I'm letting him talk about that."  The editor said he was sad to see Robbins go and that they worked out an amicable parting.  "There were no hard feelings."

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