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A Voice of the Hill is silenced

The monthly newspaper that Bruce and Adele Robey upended their lives for died Tuesday. Bruce predeceased his baby by just a few months.

The Voice of the Hill was the kind of community paper that you'd normally associate with rural places. It had columnists who didn't bother to fill you in on the background of the characters or situations they were catching you up on--they could simply assume that you were up with the progress of the story to date. Most often, the stories in the Voice didn't make The Post or the other Washington area metro news outlets, just as the shops that advertised in the paper weren't likely to be able to afford to (or want to) reach a broader audience.

But what I cherished about the Voice perhaps even more than the stories in its pages was the owners and their intense, deep commitment to the place they covered. Bruce and Adele didn't just own the paper: they lived the stories it wrote about. They moved into a tiny alley dwelling behind H Street NE--and when I say tiny, I mean you could just about touch both side walls of the place by standing in the center of the room--and got to know everyone on the alley. They bought the old French's restaurant and converted it into an adventuresome community theater, the H Street Playhouse, which was the pioneer behind what is now a burgeoning arts and entertainment district. And just as they lived their paper, so did they breathe life into that theater, infecting both old timers on the Hill and newcomers with an evangelism about reviving an urban corridor that had suffered through too many decades of neglect and decline.

The Robeys sold the Voice to Davis Kennedy's Northwest Current, a very different style of community paper but a superbly edited one that covers upper Northwest Washington more comprehensively than any other paper in the region covers its turf. But the Voice couldn't make it through the recession, Kennedy reports in the final edition of the Hill paper. Community papers have in recent years been the one bright spot in the print world, and especially those that, like the Current, eschew a web presence, making the print version the only place to get essential and intimate coverage of the neighborhoods they cover.

Like most other Washington neighborhoods, the Hill has a bunch of blogs that cover bits and pieces of the news, but nothing remotely as comprehensive, aggressive, understanding and loving as the Voice of the Hill. A gap has opened. What will fill it?

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By Marc Fisher  | May 5, 2010; 9:02 AM ET
Categories:  Journalism , Local Life  | Tags:  Adele Robey, Bruce Robey, D.C. newspaper, Davis Kennedy, H Street Playhouse, Newspaper, Northwest Current, Voice of the Hill, capitol hill  
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ARRGGHHH! I can't believe it. I rely on this every month for its calendar, insights updates and enlightenment. Sunday morning coffee will never taste as good. A bitter, sad loss. Thanks for the 11 year of enjoyment you've given me since I moved to the Hill. Wow, I just can't believe it.

Posted by: DCSec112 | May 5, 2010 11:43 AM | Report abuse

Sad to hear about the loss of a local institution. To answer the author's final question: Folks looking for hyper-local news and events can pick up a copy of the Hill Rag, available the first weekend of each month.

Posted by: freerayn1 | May 5, 2010 12:39 PM | Report abuse

This is very sad news. I will miss the Voice a lot. To the previous poster regarding the Hill Rag, while I do enjoy reading the Hill Rag every month I would hardly refer to it as hyper local news. It is a great publication, don't get me wrong, but it's a very different kind of paper than the Voice was. I think that's a good thing. But we need real news reporting too. I don't think the Rag is a substitute for the voice, but another type of media. I hope something good will come of this.

Posted by: dc3313 | May 5, 2010 3:17 PM | Report abuse

The Voice will be missed dearly and the Rag is no substitute. please. If it doesn't come back, something like it will- there is a reason the Robeys created the Voice.

Posted by: hillpetter | May 5, 2010 3:48 PM | Report abuse

Has it been 11 years? The Hill Rag was here before and it is here now, but it is not the same. The Hill Rag is appreciated, but it is not as hyper-local as the Voice was. The Voice was quite active on Twitter, also, and I will miss its presence there as well. Thank you Marc for this appreciation. I miss you too and hope you are well.

Posted by: HoosierFavoriteCommenter | May 5, 2010 8:40 PM | Report abuse

Bruce and Adele have made significant contributions to the Hill since the mid-70s when they lived in a little house on South Carolina Avenue. Bruce did everything for the Voice in its early days except ... well, except nothing. The Rag had gotten very lazy -- no attempt at news coverage, just canned stuff between the ads. The Voice not only had its own news, but the competition prompted the Rag to get better -- but still more "corporate" and less homey. Let's hope it fills the gap left by the Voice. We are reminded again how much Bruce is missed and Adele cherished.

Posted by: jameskidney | May 6, 2010 4:21 PM | Report abuse

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