“With Wayne Barrett and Tom Robbins gone, there is no longer any reason to read the Village Voice.”

Tony Ortega, embattled editor of the Village Voice, is fond of boasting about how well the paper is doing under his stewardship.

But last week, the Village Voice announced that two of  its remaining writers of repute were leaving.  Wayne Barrett, long time Voice mainstay, was fired.   Tom Robbins, another VV marquee name, resigned.  That pretty  much leaves Michael Musto as the only name of stature on its masthead, and, although we have always found Musto amusing, he’s hardly a name to build a franchise on.

According to the Gothamist:

Robbins quit after learning that Mr. Barrett had been…told by Voice management that his position was being eliminated for budget reasons.

We have always known that Ortega couldn’t write a postcard; now it seems he can’t even write a check.  We’re not sure what it means when a paper has to fire its best talent to save a few dollars, but it can’t be good.  Even the best journalists at the Voice aren’t paid all that much — how bad do things have to be before you need to cut this kind of talent to save — what? — a hundred thousand?

Readers sure didn’t like it.  The first four comments on the NYTimes website read:

“Wayne Barrett is one of the greats. I interned for him years ago and learned almost everything I know about reporting from him. He is a dogged pursuer of truth, and a a tireless advocate for the little guy — and a role model for what any journalist should be. With Wayne Barrett and Tom Robbins gone, there is no longer any reason to read the Village Voice.”

“How can they fire THE Wayne Barrett? One of the last truly great investigative journalists left in this city. Maybe the new 23-year-old Runnin’ Scared editor doesn’t really understand the value of him as a reporter. What a shame. Props to Tom Robbins!!!!”

“A small part of me feels relieved that with Wayne Barrett and Tom Robbins gone, I no longer have to visit that dreadful Village Voice web site.  The rest of me feels incredibly sad. It’s the Voice’s loss, so I’m not sure why I feel this way, but I do.

Thank you Wayne, and thank you, Tom.”

“This is a death knell for the Village Voice as one of the last true bastions of investigative journalism in New York City. What a shame!”

And a former editor also commented in the Times:

“With the loss of Wayne and Tom, they lost Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle,” said Don Forst, who was editor of The Voice from 1996 to 2005 and edited the work of both men.

Mr. Forst said their departures left the paper, which had already been downsized considerably in the last decade, greatly diminished. “It was a great institution for what it was,” he said. “It was not The Times. It wasn’t The Post. It was The Village Voice. And I think it was the role model for all folk alternative papers. I don’t know what they have left.”

Doesn’t sound promising for the future, does it?  Which is a shame.

As hostile as we have been to Tony Ortega, we gladly concede that, until a few years ago,  the Voice has been a great newspaper.  Now it’s a joke.

How can there not be a place in the US for the what was once the most revered name in alternative journalism?   We’re not talking about General Motors here, after all.  Some retooling is required, certainly, but no one would assert that restoring the Voice to its prior position was undoable.

What the Voice needs is a change in management, but Larkin and Lacey seem determined to ride Village Voice Media into bankruptcy, and to to stay the course with the dull Ortega, whose commitment to mediocrity is challenged only by his seedy past of frauds and hoaxes — hardly the stuff that inspires an editorial staff.

After running through five editors in two years, Larkin and Lacey thought they had found their man in Ortega, then editing the mighty Broward New Times, a Village Voice Media property in South Florida, and yanked him up to the Big Apple.  The fit was about as good as putting Tiny Tim in with the Julliard String Quartet.  Since Ortega’s arrival, the Voice’s dive has mirrored an exponential curve to the downside.

And the bad news is not over.

After remaining silent for some time now on Mr. Ortega’s milk cow, the McMahan incest story, which Ortega revisits with the fidelity of a junkie for a crackhouse, we have promised that we have a few things to say that will doubtless cause him discomfort, but we were interrupted by phonebook-sized documents announcing two lawsuits against the Cannibal for its coverage of this festering sore.

Now, this was a poser.  Apparently there is someone daft enough to think that US law permits them to lie under oath, weave the most revolting slanders imaginable, extort tens of millions of dollars, and subject her children to a media spectacle of  unspeakable cruelty for the sake of money, but prohibits us from exposing this remarkable pastiche of greed, hypocrisy and deceit.

Well, we disagreed, but before proceeding further, we thought it best to devote our slim resources to ensuring our safety, which we are in the process of doing.  Assured that truth is a defense against libel, we are now strapping on our pads and getting ready for the second half of this scrimmage.

And yes, we’re going to enjoy this.  Up until now, we have pointed to the flimsiness of the Voice’s story, its comical implausibility, its countless logical contradictions and insane assumptions, and relied on the acuity of the reader to see what we have seen all along — that this is hogwash of the purest tenor, promoted by three people who will do anything for money, including humiliate themselves, and by an editor whose skills and resources are so glaringly wanting that he needed this hideous fiction to save his own ass.

Now, we have something a little different to bring to the discussion.  Santa brought us a present.

Happy New Year, Mr. Ortega.