Heady New Times at the 'Village Voice'

Add to the list of recently canned Voice employees film critic Michael Atkinson. We're hearing that his replacement is current NYT screener Nathan Lee, a friend of Voice EIC David Blum from their days at the Sun. As it turns out, being a friend of Blum's is a great way to get work at the Voice, but not as great a way as having learned at the feet of the master.

A source informs us that Blum first found out about the job from listings editor Angela Ashman, a former student of his at Columbia Journalism School. Despite an apparent lack of editorial experience, Blum got the slot, perhaps due to the apparent lack of other candidates willing to fire everyone and cut-and-paste pieces from other New Times properties. How's he done so far? Let's look at a few cover stories from his tenure.

The first, "Can Bill Gates Rescue Evelyn Cabrera?", was written by Catherine Wigginton, another former student of Blum's. It prompted the following letter:

Wigginton writes a morbidly obese feature about a loser and presents a portrait both shallow and dull. An example of the shallowness is the opening description: "five feet four inches tall, with a round face, gray-blue eyes and light freckles . . . " Wigginton seems to be blinding herself with the most striking features of her subject. Some description is given of the structure and staff of the alternative school that Cabrera attended, but there is no analysis of how her life is or is not different, because of this experience, from what it would have been in a regular high school. Wigginton may have thought that she was embarking on something fascinating, and when she ended up with something tedious she managed not to see that. I understand that Wigginton might have been absorbed in her own work, but how could an editor looking at the story not realize that it was tedious, and why choose to fill eight pages of the paper with it?

Good question! What happened next week?

The paper's cover story was "Field of Queens", a breaking-newser about a gay rugby player. It actually ended with the following:

An impromptu version of "(I've Had) The Time of My Life," the song made famous in the movie Dirty Dancing, broke out in the middle of the dancefloor near the group Eric had spent the evening talking to. I've had the time of my life. No, I never felt this way before. Yes, I swear, it's the truth, And I owe it all to you. 'Cause I've had the time of my life, And I've searched through every open door, Till I found the truth And I owe it all to you.

You know, in case you forgot the words. The piece was written by Chris Korman, a former student of Blum's.

And it gets better. A source passes along word that this week's cover piece is a profile of Constantine Maroulis, the sixth-place finalist from the fourth season of American Idol. It's written by Angela Ashman, the - wait for it - former student of Blum's who told him about the job in the first place. A few sources have also suggested that the vacant staff writer position is going to one of Blum's former students.

God, who knew that going to the Columbia School of Journalism would actually pay off? If, you know, you consider working for the Voice paying off.