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Free-press champion Hentoff writes final Voice column

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Nat Hentoff, the columnist who was laid off last week from his 50-year post at the Village Voice, wrote exhaustively on civil liberties…

Nat Hentoff, the columnist who was laid off last week from his 50-year post at the Village Voice, wrote exhaustively on civil liberties and politics, music and abortion, controversies and conversations both local and national. But he was also a stalwart in the battle for free-press rights from early in his career; he keeps close tabs on issues affecting journalists, and is a veteran member of the Reporters Committee’s steering committee.

Hentoff ruffled his share of feathers over the years and at times he has misstepped — he erroneously said on National Public Radio last weekend that The McClatchy Co. had closed its Washington bureau. But Hentoff built a reputation far beyond Lower Manhattan with his underbelly-reporting and extensive writing. In recent years, and on the media alone, he has called attention to myriad concerns of reporters, including warrantless wiretapping, the Espionage Act, and the Bush administration’s relationship with the press.

In a send-off column Tuesday, Hentoff noted that newspapers are struggling financially nationwide and journalists in nearly every city are paying for it with their jobs, as he has: "But over the years, my advice to new and aspiring reporters is to remember what Tom Wicker, a first-class professional spelunker, then at The New York Times, said in a tribute to Izzy Stone: ‘He never lost his sense of rage.’ Neither have I. See you somewhere else."