Satire flies over heads of Detroit Metro Airport officials; 10,000 copies of local magazine removed

metdetroitThe cover of The Metropolitan was blunt and alarming: “Welcome to Detroit, ‘The Most Miserable City in America.'”

Officials at the Detroit Metropolitan Airport removed the local magazine’s March edition from news stands and other distribution points, saying the cover reinforces the city’s negative image.

“The controversy got us banned from distributing the full 25,000 copies – only 15,000 made it out” at the airport, publisher Anthony Brancaleone told me.

Airport officials apparently didn’t realize the headline was satirical and meant to mock Forbes magazines’ recent declaration that Detroit was the most miserable city in the U.S.

“Our population and housing is down, crime is up, schools and parks are closing, and perhaps, if we were honest with ourselves, as a community we’ve yet to come together well enough to fix our problems,” Brancaleone wrote in the magazine. “But does that make us miserable?”

Brancaleone pointed to the thriving parts of Detroit where art, music and culture are flourishing.  He noted the optimism and resiliency of the region.

The magazine is available online and is distributed throughout metro Detroit, including Slows, Mercury Bar, Astro Coffee, Guardian Building, Compuware, Fisher, Motor City Wine, Grand Trunk, American Coney, Germack coffee, 1515 Broadway, Great Lakes Coffee, Good Girls Paris Crepes, Rodin, Town Pump, Centaur and Eastern Market.

“We felt the cover to be an effective way to grab the attention of our readers, and our creative choice was intended to show our audience that we would not be bullied by the elites on 5th Avenue” in New York City, Brancaleone said.

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Steve Neavling, who lives on the city’s east side, is an investigative journalist, a freelance reporter for Reuters and former city hall reporter for the Detroit Free Press. Neavling explores corruption, Detroit’s unsung heroes and the underbelly of an oft-misunderstood city.

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Steve Neavling

Steve Neavling lives and works in Detroit as an investigative journalist. His stories have uncovered corruption, led to arrests and reforms and prompted FBI investigations.

  • dirtydog1776

    Censorship is censorship!

  • Somebody

    Regardless of whether the headline is satirical or literal, smart or stupid, correct or incorrect, removing it from public view changes nothing. Whether it does so though straight reporting or through ironic commentary, a publication’s job is to shed light on the truth, not to “reinforce a city’s public image.” The truth just is whatever it is — not what the Detroit Metro Airport authorities would like it to be.

    • Dave Armstrong


  • I reached for The Metro on a flight back to Atlanta because it was incredible to me that a publisher cared enough about Detroit to extol its virtues in the midst of a media firestorm. While most people and reporters can’t get past the surface, The Metropolitan is “in there” reporting about the things that make Detroit great. Beyond that, they do it in a high-style way; this is not a half-hearted attempt to try to paint a pretty face on Detroit, The Metropolitan is only reporting what it sees and giving it the treatment it deserves. That Brancaleone ran this cover shows that he believes the people of Detroit have the same faith in their city as he does and that the sentiment would be relayed to the visitors of Detroit who pick up the magazine and carry the message throughout the world.

    • Dave Armstrong

      You’re missing the point. All most hurrying-scurrying Metro passengers were going to see was the blaring headline, which appears to be anti-Detroit. The vast majority of them were never going to read the actual article.

    • Tom

      “.. were never going to read the article.”

      First, the top fold screamed, “Welcome to Detroit.” Passers-by would have to pick up the paper and look under the fold to read the part about it being miserable. Once the paper was in their hands, choosing not to read past the headline doesn’t make them much different than many other people.

  • Dave Armstrong

    I agree that the headline was not appropriate. Satirical as it may be, to understand that would require reading the article, which most people passing by newsstands in the airport would not do. Therefore, a negative impression. Perhaps a better headline: “Welcome to Detroit – – – we are NOT miserable!”.

  • Tom

    “Do you think they went too far?”

    No. But the airport’s reaction shows that small-mindedness thrives beyond city limits. The airport’s reaction showed a willingness to censor/confiscate, a willful illiteracy if they didn’t bother reading the story or were unable to “get” its satire, and also demonstrated an over-sensitivity to criticism. Little or no progress can be made rehabilitating something so easily offended.

    Do you think New York cares when it’s negatively portrayed in television or movies? Do its ministers march or demand visits from producers and directors? Do its politicians whine and grouse about not being treated fairly?

    To paraphrase Adlai Stevenson, “You can tell the size of a city by the size of what makes it mad.”

    • Tom

      I was surprised that Fox 2’s “On the Nine” team briefly discussed the incident and none of the anchors found anything wrong with the airport pulling the papers. Only one of the hosts had actually read insides to discover what it was about.

      I expected journalist to perhaps read the paper and at least visit the topic of censorship and the important role the press plays–especially on unpopular subjects, but alas, none of that.

      Color me disappointed.