Village Voice Media

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Village Voice Media
Privately held company
Industry Holding Company
Genre Holding Company
Founded as New Times Inc. 1970 (1970)
Headquarters Phoenix, Arizona, United States
Products Formerly published alternative newspapers and websites. As of December, 2014, it had divested itself of all of these properties

Village Voice Media or "VVM" began in 1970 as a weekly alternative newspaper in Phoenix, Arizona. The company, founded by Michael Lacey (editor) and Jim Larkin (publisher) was then known as New Times Inc. and the publication was named New Times. The company was later renamed New Times Media.[1]

By 2001 the company had grown to 13 newspapers in major cities across the United States. Most of these publications were acquired via purchase from then current owner/publishers.[2]

New Times Media became known for its fiercely independent journalism and its willingness to take on topics and stories that other "mainstream" publishers would not touch. The newspapers also became touchstones for local arts and culture coverage.[3] The company won a multitude of local and national awards for journalism throughout the publishing group.

In 2002, New Times Media entered into an agreement with Village Voice Media (VVM), also a publisher of a number of alternative newspapers including the Village Voice (New York), LA Weekly and the Cleveland Free Times. Village Voice Media would sell the Cleveland Free Times to New Times Media and New Times Media would sell New Times LA to Village Voice Media. This resulted in the weaker, money-losing paper in each of the two markets being closed by their new owners. This agreement led to an antitrust investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice. The investigation resulted in a settlement, requiring the companies to sell off assets and the old newspapers' titles to any potential competitors.[4]

On October 24, 2005, New Times Media announced a deal to acquire Village Voice Media, creating a chain of 17 free weekly newspapers around the country with a combined circulation of 1.8 million.[5][6] At that time, the Village Voice Media group owned 6 newsweeklies including the Village Voice (New York). After the deal's completion, New Times Media assumed the Village Voice Media name.

Name of Newspaper Date of acquisition or start up Date of Sale Purchaser
Phoenix New Times 1970 2012 Voice Media Group (VMG)
Westword (Denver) 1983 2012 VMG
Miami New Times 1987 2012 VMG
Dallas Observer 1991 2012 VMG
Houston Press 1993 2012 VMG
SF Weekly 1995 2013 San Francisco Media Company/Black Press
Los Angeles Reader 1996 1996 merged into New Times LA
LA View 1996 1996 merged into New Times LA
New Times LA 1996 2002 Village Voice Media Inc.
New Times Broward-Palm Beach 1997 2012 VMG
Cleveland Scene 1998 2008 Times-Shamrock Communications
Riverfront Times (St. Louis) 1998 2012 VMG
The Pitch (Kansas City) 1999 2011 SouthComm Communications
Fort Worth Weekly 2000 2001 Lee Newquist
East Bay Express (SF Bay area) 2001 2007 Stephen Buell/Hal Brody
Nashville Scene 2006 2009 SouthComm Communications
Village Voice (New York) 2006 2012 VMG
LA Weekly 2006 2012 VMG
OC Weekly (Orange County CA) 2006 2012 VMG
City Pages (Minneapolis) 2006 2012 VMG
Seattle Weekly 2006 2013 Sound Publishing/Black Press

By the early 2000s the internet, particularly the website Craigslist, was destroying the classified advertising business in newspapers nationwide. Classified advertising in daily newspapers as well as weekly alternatives, suburban papers and community papers was all moving to the free adverting model of Craigslist and other smaller websites. In response to this phenomenon, New Times Media launched a free classified website called in 2004. It soon became the second largest online classified site in the U.S.[7]

The site included all the various categories found in newspaper classified sections including those that were unique to and part of the first amendment driven traditions of most alternative weeklies. These included personals (including adult oriented personal ads), adult services, musicians and "New Age" services.

On September 4, 2010, in response to pressure from a variety of governmental agencies and NGO’s, Craigslist removed the adult services category from its U.S sites. soon became the highest profile website to include this category although a significant number of other sites (including Craigslist) continued to include adult services ads, though not directly labeled as such.[8] Backpage was then targeted by the same forces that had pursued Craigslist. Backpage’s owner, now known as Village Voice Media, refused to buckle to this pressure. In reaching this position, VVM felt that the First Amendment rights implications coupled with the protections given to Interactive Computer Services in section 230 of the 1996 Communications and Decency Act were paramount. Over the next five years, Backpage won every legal challenge to its right to continue this category on the Backpage site. Backpage also continued to increase its efforts to root out any illegal activity, particularly focusing on the identification of ads that might feature underage victims of human trafficking.[9][10] See the Wikipedia entry on Backpage.

In October 2007, Michael Lacey and Jim Larkin, now the company’s executive editor and chief executive officer respectively, were arrested in Phoenix on charges that a VVM publication, the Phoenix New Times, had published secret grand jury information. Dennis Wilenchik, a state special prosecutor, was investigating the newspaper's long-running feud with Maricopa County, Arizona, Sheriff Joe Arpaio, including the publishing of Arpaio's home address, a crime under Arizona law. The special prosecutor's subpoena included a demand for the names of the readers of the New Times’ website. It was the information about the subpoena which was deemed by prosecutors to be secret grand jury information.[11] Lacey and Larkin sued Arpaio, the Maricopa County attorney Andrew Thomas and Wilenchik for violation of First Amendment Rights and abuse of power. In 2012 the 9th US Circuit of Appeals ruled there had been no probable cause for the arrests and that the subpoenas were invalid as Wilenchik never consulted a grand jury (this claim had been fabricated) and that the arrests were without regard to due process. In 2013 Maricopa County settled the case with Lacey and Larkin, paying them $3.75 million. Subsequently, Lacey and Larkin used the money from the settlement to establish the "Frontera Foundation" to assist the Hispanic community.[12] Arpaio had frequently been accused of racial profiling and unfairly targeting Latinos for detention and arrest. The US Justice Department investigated the charges,[13] which later led to a lawsuit being filed by the Department. Maricopa County settled the lawsuit with the Justice Department in July 2015.[14]

In 2012, Village Voice Media owners sold the papers and their web properties to a group of longtime executives, leaving the online classifieds site Backpage in control of shareholders Mike Lacey and Jim Larkin. Executives for the spinoff holding company, called Voice Media Group and based in Denver, raised "some money from private investors" in order to separate the newspapers.[15] In December 2014, VVM sold its interests in to a Dutch holding company.[16]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Greenberg, Laura (1990). "Lacey and Larkin - Twenty years later Phoenix's bad boys are taking their place among the presslords of America". Phoenix Magazine (October): 59–71. 
  2. ^ "History of New Times, Inc.". Retrieved December 2, 2015. 
  3. ^ "Voice Media Group". Voice Media Group. Retrieved November 10, 2015. 
  4. ^ Carr, David (January 27, 2003). "Newsweeklies Agree to Pact on Allegations of Collusion". The New York Times. Retrieved November 10, 2015. 
  5. ^ Bloomberg News (October 25, 2005). "New Times Will Buy Village Voice Media". The New York Times. Retrieved November 10, 2015. 
  6. ^ Siklos, Richard (October 24, 2005). "The Village Voice, Pushing 50, Prepares to Be Sold to a Chain of Weeklies". New York Times. New York, New York. Retrieved February 15, 2016. 
  7. ^ Kiefer, Michael (September 23, 2012). "Phoenix New Times founders selling company". The Arizona Republic. Retrieved November 10, 2015. 
  8. ^ Fisher, Daniel. "Backpage Takes Heat, But Prostitution Ads Are Everywhere". Forbes. Retrieved November 10, 2012. 
  9. ^ Fisher, Daniel. "Backpage Takes Heat, But Prostitution Ads Are Everywhere". Forbes. Retrieved November 10, 2012. 
  10. ^ "Fighting Over Online Sex Ads". The New York Times. October 30, 2011. Retrieved November 10, 2015. 
  11. ^ "Media Executives Arrested in Phoenix". The New York Times. October 10, 2007. Retrieved November 10, 2015. 
  12. ^ "Lacey And Larkin Frontera Fund". Retrieved November 11, 2015. 
  13. ^ Lacey, Marc (December 15, 2011). "U.S. Finds Pervasive Bias Against Latinos by Arizona Sheriff". The New York Times. Retrieved November 10, 2015. 
  14. ^ Scott, Eugene (July 17, 2015). "DOJ settles with Arizona sheriff over discrimination claims". Retrieved November 10, 2015. 
  15. ^ Francescani, Chris; Damouni, Nadia (September 24, 2012). "Village Voice newspaper chain to split from controversial ad site". Reuters. Retrieved November 10, 2015. 
  16. ^ Kezar, Korri (December 30, 2014). " sold to Dutch company for undisclosed amount". Dallas Business Journal. Retrieved November 11, 2015.