The Village Voice Is Opportunist, Presumptuous and Maybe Sorta Racist? Which Makes Me Sad.

by |
01/14/2010 12:36 PM |

This was also a real winner.

  • This was also a real winner.

In this week’s Village Voice, one Graham Rayman contributes a somewhat overwritten but soundly reported piece on the poverty and culture of youth crime—which, he notes, is generally underreported and thus doesn’t affect New York’s generally improving crime stats—in the generally-considered-gentrified East Village. It’s a good look at the persistence of class barriers and social problems in an increasingly (outwardly, at least) sanitary city, and productively balances facts and perspectives.

So what’s the hook used for the headline? “In a Crime-Free City, How Does a Young Gangbanger Represent?”

Now, look, we’re all adults who write grabby alt-weekly headlines around here. Still.

Not heds that, you know, actively misrepresent the story, which works to demonstrate that New York is still a harsher place than you think. As opposed to being about, like, the struggle to maintain “street cred”, as I believe the young bucks say nowadays.

The mode of alt-weekly journalism pushed by the New Times corporation has an “edge,” but no actual point. This means doing the traditional sex-and-politics exposes, but written not in the voice of someone with a vested in interest in the larger narrative of this stuff, but in the voice of someone who knows the story will make a good cover (the now-dormant Alt-Weekly Death Watch blog did fine work documenting the muscle-bound prose stunts and essential vacuity of this style).

The independently owned Village Voice (and the holdovers who remain) was (and are) often prickly and pompous about politics. The nice thing about being oversensitive and taking everything so politically, though, is that you’re not so tone-deaf as to get all frattishly chummy with impovrished teenage criminals, on the rare occasion when you allow someone to write a decent story.

I feel bad for Rayman—perhaps wrongly, I’m going to assume that it wasn’t his headline, or even his pitch—and fervently hope that whoever wrote the headline gets mugged, and tries to get out of it by talking street to his assailant.