Late yesterday afternoon, it was announced that incoming Village Voice EIC Erik Wemple had changed his mind about the whole job thing, quitting before he had officially started. The official response was that he had encountered disagreements over newsroom management, and Village Voice Media executive editor Michael Lacey explained, "The Voice is an enormous and complex horse race. We asked Erik to mount several ponies mid-stride, and he was alarmed to find us still in several of those saddles." Gee, thanks for the clarification.
According to the Voice's Power Plays blog, Wemple's words to the staff were mostly encouraging:
Get out in the streets, he advised. If you want lunch with me, sit down at my desk where I'll be eating turkey with lettuce and yellow mustard. Please be on time for meetings, he said, and no putting "tender age of" in your copy.
But that doesn't sound like anything that would cause problems when mounting the Voice's "ponies." Obviously, there's more.
From what we hear, Wemple held a two-hour meeting with the staff that went reasonably well until staffers asked if the paper would be asked to use other New Times writers. Wemple said that bringing in outside writers wasn't in his plans, but the staff informed him the practice has already been imposed, as the Voice has been more or less forced to use film and music reruns from other New Times papers. That's where things started to sour, because Wemple looked absolutely shocked that this had been going on. He also said he wanted to focus on more arts reporting and criticism, unaware that the arts sections had been significantly reduced.
Long story short, the New Times has hacked things up to the point where the Voice is no longer the paper Wemple thought he was signing up for. Management wanted Wemple, who'd been assured of autonomy — but then he got smacked with an alternate reality upon arriving in New York.
You can't blame him for walking right back out the door. If we were Wemple, we too would prefer being "deliriously happy" in D.C. than dealing with managerial bait-and-switching.
So let's move on to the next issue: who the hell is going to edit the Voice now? Jim Knipfel?