Metro Times cuts staff of new ‘superweekly’ after Real Detroit merger

Metro TimesLess 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

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.

  • Rachel Skotarczyk

    they laid off a lot more people than mentioned in this article.

  • blaze

    Doesn’t anybody care these supposed journalists are making money on sex ads and I would not want my writing compromise by being hooked into the sex industry in any way.

  • falseprophet

    Greedy business people only concerned with staying in business over employee payroll. Sarcasm on my part.

  • Gabe

    I thought Chris Sexson got run out of town.

    • Myla Strange-Nixon

      Chris keating took Chris Sexsons position just over a month ago.

      • Gabe

        So apparently all you have to do is be named Chris to not appreciate artistic talent and then it’s easy to fire the people who make a paper what it is.

  • Jeph

    As a staff photographer of over 12 years at Real, I can truly say that first hand I was able to witness the unravelling of the paper. What brought it down was a hierarchy that seemed to be instated after the hiring of their last editor, by which it felt more like being in high school than an office. Especially when it came to art – whatever pleased the editor, not the advertisers, seemed to get printed. Being frustrated for the past year with the treatment Robert Del Valle, the long-time staff writer (D-Days, Clean Plate Club, Stage & Canvas and most headline stories), and I were being put through, I went in search of higher ground, as Real was a sinking ship! Unfortunately, I was only able to find 1 paying assignment with Metro before it was sold, as all their photographers now are not paid, but are considered ‘interns’.

    As for the firing of John, I feel the paper shot themselves in the foot, as when with RDW, he was the only one who worked his ass off to fill the paper’s ad quota. Also, he has charisma unlike any other!

    • John Schoenkopf

      thanx, jeph~!

  • Donn

    Does the creative director design the covers? Because it’s obvious MT absorbed Real Detroit’s lead designer in the merger, and while I never cheer journalists losing their jobs, that hack needed to be laid off.

    • Myla Strange-Nixon

      Yes, the covers had recently taken on the look of Realdetroit . The new owners preferred it. The let the award winning creative director, Robert Nixon go , he designed for 2 years for Metrotimes.

      • Jill Drnek

        Well that’s a shame. Is the Metro Times absorbing the Tits & Ass advertising of Real Detroit, too? Needless to say, I have no interest in placing ads.

    • Amanda Ellen Menard

      Nix is one of the most amazing designers I’ve ever had the privilege of working with. Although I understand all too well the financial struggles that are currently being faced by every single print publication in America, I was deeply saddened to hear that he, Desiree, John, and Brett were laid off. My heart goes out to each and every one of you. Just know this: It gets so much better from here. There are a lot of opportunities out there and I am sure that with your caliber of talent, many will come your way.