Finding His Voice
Even after five years, Tony Ortega ’87, ’89 (B.A., M.A. English) still cannot fully comprehend that he is editor-in-chief of New York’s storied Village Voice.
“It’s a great challenge,” Ortega said. “It’s a legendary paper and it’s still stunning to me [that I am here].” At the same time, he believes his duty is clear. “We have a very simple mission: We want to tell people things about New York that they don’t already know. It sounds simple, but it’s very difficult – and it’s something worth doing.”
The Voice was launched by Ed Fancher, Dan Wolf and Norman Mailer on October 26, 1955, from a two-bedroom apartment in Greenwich Village. At a recent meeting with Ortega, Fancher, now 88, recalled Mailer delivering papers to newsstands. The Voice has published many well-known writers, including Ezra Pound, Henry Miller, James Baldwin, E.E. Cummings and Allen Ginsberg.
Ortega recently traveled back to Cal State Fullerton to attend a flurry of receptions, classes and seminars at the invitation of the Alumni Association. He particularly enjoyed speaking to journalism classes and visiting the Daily Titan newsroom.
“Students ask great questions, particularly those in Professor Jeff Brody’s class,” he said. “Brody really understands how the media has changed. I heard him giving students advice that was absolutely spot-on.”
Ortega’s prior experience includes work for weekly newspapers in Phoenix, Los Angeles, Kansas City and Fort Lauderdale. He started with the Phoenix New Times in 1995 and was named Arizona’s Journalist of the Year in 1996 for his work exposing corruption in Sheriff Joe Apaio’s Maricopa County offices. He has spent 17 years writing about Scientology, with a blog post nearly every day.
Crediting Professor Emeritus William Koon and Joe Sawicki, English chair and professor, among others, with inspiring him to write well and think critically as a student and then as a teaching assistant, Ortega believes his literary and grammatical studies were important in making him the editor and writer he has become.
“We’ve gone from a weekly newspaper with a website to a 24-hour digital news organization that happens to put out a weekly paper,” he said. “It’s been a difficult transition – we’ve all taken on extra jobs and we’re all working really hard.”