Less than two months after the Metro Times and Real Detroit merged into a “superweekly,” the Cleveland-based owner laid off four employees, one of whom claims he was let go because he has cancer.
The Metro Times laid off music editor Brett Callwood, production manager Desiree Kelly, creative director Robert Nixon and account executive John Schoenkopf on Thursday and Friday.
“It is always sad when that happens, at any publication,” Metro Times Editor-In-Chief Valerie Vande Panne said this morning.
Schoenkopf, who has testicular cancer and is recovering after a recent surgery, didn’t mince words after he was let go, posting on Facebook: “got fired from metro times for having cancer.”
“The allegation that we laid anyone off for a medical condition is absolutely false,” Vande Panne said.
There’s good news for fans of Callwood, the Metro Times’ popular music editor, who will “continue to contribute to both the print publication and to the website,” Vande Panne said.
Callwood said he’s excited about his new role.
“I still believe in this wonderful newspaper,” Callwood said today.
Vande Panne added that Robert Nixon also may freelance for the weekly.
The Metro Times has two staff reporters and an array of contributors.
In December, the struggling weekly was purchased by Euclid Media, a small group that pledged to bring back the hard edge and investigative journalism.
In April, the Metro Times recently hired Vande Panne, an award-winning journalist and former editor of High Times, as its editor-in-chief. The newsweekly also brought back veteran investigative reporter Curt Guyette, who now works with the ACLU in Detroit.
In 1999, during the nationwide boom at alt-weeklies, the Metro Times was estimated to be raking in $8 million in annual revenue – more than twice what it made when it was sold to Euclide Media. At that time, the Metro Times circulated 110,000 copies, compared to roughly 50,000 today.
While the leadership hopes to increase the circulation by more than 50%, much of the focus is on improving its website with daily updates and fresh stories as digital advertising becomes increasingly popular.
Vande Panne said she sees a bright future for the Metro Times.
“Metro Times looks forward to a strong future and to continued, positive growth in Detroit and the metro area,” she said.
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.