Tony Ortega Comments on Barrett, Robbins Departures

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01/04/2011 1:17 PM |

Earlier today, I noted longtime Village Voice political reporter Wayne Barrett had been let go by the paper, and that his longtime colleague Tom Robbins would be following him out the door. The title of the post piggybacked on the wording and interpretation of a Tweet from New York Times media reporter Jeremy Peters; when I called Village Voice editor-in-chief Tony Ortega, he was eager to comment on both the departures and the reporting.

Ortega, editor-in-chief since 2007, says that Wayne Barrett (and Tom Robbins for that matter) did, in his view, a great job in easing the Voice through its transition into its current state, with a greater emphasis on the website. (He digressed to argue that the paper is thriving in its current incarnation, directing me to their 20 Most Read Stories list.)

He tells me he wanted to run a farewell column in recognition of Barrett’s last days at the Voice, and posted today’s column to the blog himself. Robbins, as one of the union stewards, had been working with Ortega to settle matters relating to Barrett’s departure, and told Ortega he’d like to leave with Barrett, the guy who brought him. (His time will finish at the end of January.) It was not, Ortega insists, a protest—he vociferously disputes the interpretation. (Barrett’s own wording: “…when he heard I was leaving, he quit himself and didn’t even tell me he was.”)

Ortega says he loved Barrett’s and Robbins’s work; he also notes that Barrett had been acclimating quite nicely to the website (he highlighted Barrett’s reporting on the Attorney General race). As for why Barrett left (“I am 65 and a half now, and it is time for something new. If I didn’t see that, others did.”), it was, Ortega said, a “personal matter.” We’re hoping to hear from either Barrett or Robbins later today.