Summer media feuds: Village Voice v. Ashton Kutcher; Gawker v. Fox News; Justin Timberlake v. Myspace’s Inevitable Failure

Dylan Stableford

Jon Stewart's clash with Chris Wallace and Fox News may have ushered in an endless summer season of media feuds, but there are other, vastly more intriguing industry-related battles to keep an eye on.

Here are a few just emerging:

Village Voice v. Ashton Kutcher: The Village Voice, which is bracing for a strike by its union-backed employees, is simultaneously involved in another feud--with Ashton Kutcher. In a triple-bylined cover story this week ("Real Men Get Their Facts Straight") the Voice takes issue with Kutcher's "Real Men Don't Buy Girls" campaign against underage sex trafficking, and his claim that between "100,000 and 300,000" child sex slaves are lost to prostitution each year.

As the alt-weekly freely admits, they have a dog in the fight. "From its earliest days, the Village Voice has run adult classifieds," the paper said in a sidebar. "Today, those classifieds are hosted online at Backpage.com. Having run off Craigslist, reformers, the devout, and the government-funded have turned their guns upon Village Voice Media. It is true that Village Voice Media has a stake in this discussion. But the facts speak for themselves." Kutcher took to Twitter last night to respond, issuing a series of tweets aimed at the paper: "Hey @VILLAGEVOICE," Kutcher wrote. "REAL MEN DON'T BUY GIRLS and REAL NEWS PUBLICATIONS DON'T SELL THEM."

Gawker v. Ailes: Today, Gawker published a long investigative piece by John Cook, a former Yahoo Newser, on Fox News chief Roger Ailes' "secret Nixon-era blueprint" for the "Fair and Balanced" cable channel. Cook unearths a memo written by Ailes, a former strategist for Nixon and George H.W. Bush administrations, entitled "A Plan For Putting the GOP on TV News," among 316 pages of documents found in the Nixon and Bush presidential libraries. The 15-page plan pre-dates the 1996 launch of Fox News, and is a fascinating read for those who have followed FNC's rise to ratings dominance.

Consider the plan's mission statement:

1. Purpose - To provide pro-administration, videotape, hard news actualities to the major cities of the United States.

According to Gawker, Ailes did not respond to a request for comment.

Justin Timberlake v. Reality: Speaking of News Corp., its six-year run as the principal owner of Myspace, the once-mighty social network, came to a sad end this week with its sale to a company called Specific Media for $35 million, or $545 million less than Rupert Murdoch paid for it in 2005. (Murdoch himself once estimated Myspace was worth $6 billion.)

The company's name notwithstanding, Specific Media was awfully vague about its plans for Myspace, except that Justin Timberlake--yes, J.T.--will be the director of business strategy. "We look forward to partnering with someone as talented as Justin Timberlake, who will lead the business strategy with his creative ideas and vision for transforming Myspace," the company's CEO, Tim Vanderhook, said in a statement. "This is the next chapter of digital media, and we are excited to have a hand in writing the script."

Here's what J.T. had to say:

There's a need for a place where fans can go to interact with their favorite entertainers, listen to music, watch videos, share and discover cool stuff and just connect. Myspace has the potential to be that place. Art is inspired by people and vice versa, so there's a natural social component to entertainment. I'm excited to help revitalize Myspace by using its social media platform to bring artists and fans together in one community.

Paid Content has a handy, historical Myspace timeline, for those looking to chart the rise and fall of the site (don't click here, Rupe, it'll depress you). The Atlantic Wire compares the character (Sean Parker) Timberlake played in "The Social Network" to the one he's about to play in real life. My advice for Timberlake: call it something other than Myspace.