Village Voice Sheds Staff

The Village Voice, sister paper to the LA Weekly, suffered two big losses Friday. First was editor-in-chief Tony Ortega, who announced he was quitting to work on a book proposal about Hollywood’s favorite cult, Scientology. What? No one quits their job to work on a book proposal.  You quit once you get a book deal. More likely that Ortega was fired, as some sources have been telling the New York Observer, and he’s now attempting to save face.

Also out is music editor Maura Johnston, who made no pretense about the circumstances of her departure, telling David Carr of the New York Times, “the decision to leave was not mine.” Carr had high praise for Johnston in the paper’s Media Decoder blog:

She…embodied The Voice’s tradition of thoughtful cultural criticism, and resisted the kinds of light, easily consumable items, like Top 10 lists and photo compilations, that tend to draw the most traffic online.

Giving in to “the Darwinistic page-view coverage of anything,” she said, “is damaging to culture as a whole.”

That might have been a veiled dig at LA Weekly music editor Ben Westhoff, who recently made waves with his blog post “The 20 Worst Hipster Bands.” The post was widely criticized throughout the blogosphere, but according to Westhoff it was also the most-read music blog in LA Weekly history.

According to Carr, Westhoff was recently put in charge of the music coverage for all 13 Village Voice Media papers, and “Ms. Johnston’s dismissal was widely seen as a result of a power struggle over the direction of that coverage.”