6237138.35The Village Voice has been without a metro columnist since the abrupt departure of longtime staffer Tom Robbins in January.
Starting in June, however, a new name will appear where Robbins' once did on the the masthead: The Cutline has learned that Harry Siegel, the precocious politics writer and son of former Rudolph Giuliani adviser Fred Siegel, has been hired as Robbins' replacement.
At first glance, plucking a journalist with conservative stripes (in the early 2000s, Siegel, 33, worked as an editorial writer and op-ed editor at the right-leaning New York Sun, which folded in 2008), might seem a curious move for a counterculture publication steeped in the liberal tradition of muckraking.
But Siegel says he does not identify as conservative. And political leanings aside: "Harry just blew away everyone else who applied for the job," said Village Voice editor Tony Ortega. "He submitted a long list of story ideas about New York City's power brokers that I am drooling to publish." Siegel will write a weekly column and contribute daily to the Voice's news blog, Runnin' Scared, said Ortega.
"For me, New York is it," Siegel told The Cutline. "It's where I was born and have lived pretty much ever since, and it's what I know best and feel most strongly about. With the 2013 mayoral field the most open since 2001, and the race likely the most pivotal since 1993, it's the perfect time to be in the mix, and a weekly column in the Voice is for me the perfect platform."
Siegel's new gig isn't his first stint at a New York alternative newsweekly. From August 2005 through February 2006, he had a brief run as editor-in-chief of the New York Press, resigning with his staff in protest when its publisher refused to let them print the controversial Muhammad cartoons that had triggered demonstrations and riots in several foreign countries. We "have no desire to be free speech martyrs, but it would have been nakedly hypocritical to avoid the same cartoons we'd criticized others for not running," Siegel wrote at the time. He also has worked as an editor at Politico, where he will continue to write occasional opinion pieces.
As for his predecessor, "Robbins combined real institutional knowledge and a willingness to name names," said Siegel. "He leaves some big shoes to fill. I'll leave it to readers to decide if I'm up to the standard he set"
Robbins, who first worked at the paper in the mid-'80s and returned in 2000 following a detour at the Daily News, resigned in the wake of a round of downsizing that claimed fellow Voice veteran Wayne Barret. The iconic free tabloid, which merged with a national chain of alt-weeklies in 2006, has shed about a dozen staffers through layoffs and voluntary attrition over the past several years. Robbins is now the investigative journalist in residence at CUNY's Graduate School of Journalism; Barrett landed as a contributor at Tina Brown's Newsweek-Daily Beast mash-up.