Tony Ortega, the editor of the Village Voice, is sticking up for a dirty (but on point) joke his media blogger Foster Kamer made — even though it cost the struggling paper one million dollars in advertising. In a lengthy blog post this morning, Ortega explains why he wants Kamer (who wrote on his Tumblr “I’m not proud of losing the Voice a million bucks. I’m pretty fucking embarrassed, actually”) to stop apologizing for the gag. And he explains how most people who have been writing about the whole situation have sort of missed the point.
See, the dick joke that Kamer made was crass, but it wasn’t out of the blue. In a March blog post about the pending purchase of the website Gothamist by communications giant Cablevision, Kamer laid some of the humor behind the news. Gothamist founder Jake Dobkin, who Ortega posits created his website to “rewrite everything significant in the morning’s New York Times in short, passionless, humorless bite-sized chunks,” had lately been criticizing the Times. In effect, Ortega explains, Dobkin was biting the hand that fed him. Dobkin’s latest criticism was of a Times profile of Lockhart Steele which he described as an explicit “blowjob.” Noting that Cablevision owner James Dolan has a reputation for bullying the press, and forcing Newsday (one of his properties) to write fawning coverage of the Knicks (another of his properties), Kamer merely wondered “how Dobkin’s gonna feel with Jimmy Dolan’s cock in his mouth?”
Not his actual dick, you see. Kamer was merely following up on the metaphorical blow-job imagery brought up by Dobkin himself. Which Ortega says he tried to explain to the many irate Cablevision flacks who called him after this blog post went up. Explains Ortega:
We put into words the things people actually think and say when they are being honest with each other and not talking in that pretend-voice that the dailies and the television people put on. Right? I mean, this is at the core of this foul-mouthed, truth-telling, non-pandering institution. I mean, that’s the only reason I want to work here, anyway. Now, that said, let’s also just point out that the target of [Kamer’s] truth-telling joke was primarily Jake Dobkin, not Jimmy Dolan, whose cock in this case was purely metaphorical. This is why it was so mind-blowing that, within minutes of [Kamer] posting that item, several flacks who work for Dolan were desperately trying to get me on the phone. They seemed to be under the impression that we had written something about Jimmy Dolan’s actual sexual activities. Or that we had written about Jimmy Dolan’s actual dick. “Don’t you think that’s over the line?” the humorless woman who works for Dolan asked me when she finally got me on the phone. “Whose line?” was my reply. I knew that for Voice readers, this wasn’t even close to being over the line (whatever the hell that means, anyway).
The angry calls were followed by an ad pull from all Cablevision properties who purchase space in the Voice, and several of their partners, totalling one million in ad revenue lost to the weekly paper. “As I’ve told a couple of different reporters, I don’t know Dolan well enough to understand why he’s so sensitive about his penis,” Ortega says. “All this because Jimmy Dolan didn’t like a joke that mentioned his (metaphorical) dick. That not only wasn’t about his sex life, but wasn’t really even about him. For this, he tries to cause serious harm to the Voice.” Ortega ends his blog post with a threat of his own: We have our work cut out for us. Jimmy Dolan is obviously trying to get our attention. And I’ve [sic] of a mind to give it to him,” he says. “Let’s get to work.”