The Villager is Sold to Information Technology Executive

Jennifer Goodstein, Publisher

Jennifer Goodstein to publish Community Media properties including the Downtown Express, Gay City News, Chelsea Now, and the East Villager/Lower East Sider

BY LINCOLN ANDERSON  |  The parent company of The Villager has been sold to a business executive with experience in information technology and e-commerce.

“I was looking for something in New York that had quality and integrity behind it,” Jennifer Goodstein said of purchasing Community Media, LLC, effective July 31.

The award-winning newspaper chain also includes the Downtown Express, Gay City News, Chelsea Now and the East Villager, and was owned for the past 12 years by John W. Sutter.

“John has maintained, over the years, a very strong reputation of having a place where people can find a trusted source of what’s happening,” Goodstein said. “I do feel that, looking at the condition of the papers –– I think the hard work is done.”

Goodstein was a key e-business executive at MetLife for ten years. Prior to that, she was director of information technology for instruction and curriculum at a Maryland school district.

Commenting that New York City is “anything but vanilla,” Goodstein said that “the diversity” of the neighborhoods and the issues the group’s newspapers cover is a compelling factor in her interest in assuming control of the properties.

Asked what he was most proud of during his tenure, Sutter, who is 62, said, “Working with a group of committed professionals who believe in community journalism. Covering the best neighborhoods in the entire world. Trying to write fairly, forcefully, and independently about events that have meaning in the lives of our readers, week in and week out.”

Goodstein, 47, is married to Les Goodstein, who is a senior vice president at News America Inc. They live in Manhattan and have a college-age son, Steven.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

The Villager started publishing in April 1933, four years after Wall St. crashed and a few years into the Great Depression.

The paper was founded by Walter Gregory Bryan — a newspaperman who started an advertising agency — and his sister, Isabel Bryan, who both moved to the Village from the Midwest to launch the new publication.

The rise of political reform, the preservation of the Jefferson Market Courthouse, the dawning of gay and lesbian consciousness, the transformation of the waterfront, the world-changing terror of Sept. 11, 2001 — all have been in the pages of The Villager from a neighborhood point of view.

In the late 1950s, The Villager — thanks to the influence of staff reporter William Honan — for the first time became a fighting paper, taking on powerful District Leader Carmine De Sapio, the head of Tammany Hall, helping hasten his downfall.

In January 1992, however, amid a tough economic climate, the newspaper was closed. Six months later, Tom Butson, a retired New York Times assistant news editor, and his wife, Elizabeth Margaritis Butson, a former marketing vice president at Philip Morris, bought The Villager and resumed publishing, saving it from vanishing from existence.

Sutter purchased The Villager and Downtown Express from the Butsons in 1999. Sutter took the Downtown Express weekly for the decade after 9/11 because, as he said, “People in a disaster zone desperately need information.”

Sutter’s tenure at Community Media was a dynamic and active one, during which he substantially expanded the community newspaper franchise in Lower Manhattan. He launched three more papers: Gay City News in 2002; Chelsea Now in 2006; and the East Villager/Lower East Sider in 2010, all of which are thriving today.

Under Sutter, Community Media publications garnered their share of awards, with the papers regularly being acknowledged as among the top five newspaper groups in New York State. Over the past 12 years, Community Media has won more than 200 awards for excellence in the New York Press Association’s Better Newspaper Contest across a wide range of categories, including The Villager’s three times winning the Stuart Dorman Award as the best community weekly in the state.

Among the most memorable, big stories during his ownership of the papers, Sutter said, were “9/11; the recovery and rebuilding of Lower Manhattan after the attack; N.Y.U.’s expansion; the building out of Hudson River Park and its trials and tribulations; St. Vincent’s plan to build a new hospital tower and its ultimate bankruptcy and collapse; the legalization of same-sex marriage in New York State; the school crisis; the dynamic expansion of influence of our local community boards; real estate developments; the rezoning of the East Village and Lower East Side; new faces in politics — Margaret Chin and Daniel Squadron — and familiar faces, too — Christine Quinn, Tom Duane, Jerrold Nadler, Carolyn Maloney, Rosie Mendez, Sheldon Silver and Deborah Glick; the redevelopment of Washington Square and a dozen other parks. The list goes on and on.”

Sutter has agreed to stay on at the newspapers as Publisher Emeritus, although he quipped that sounds “really old.” He will assist the new leadership in the transition.

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