Troubles continue at Metro Times after top editor leaves, cites differences

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Valerie Vande Panne
Valerie Vande Panne

Less than nine months after the new owners of the beleaguered Metro Times hired an award-winning journalist and Michigan native to lead the transformation of the alt-weekly into a journalism powerhouse, the new editor-in-chief said Thursday she is “happy” to be leaving the publication.

Valerie Vande Panne, a Grand Rapids native with an impressive journalism resume, tweeted that she was parting ways with the storied weekly, which was purchased in December 2013 by Cleveland-based Euclid Media.

Vande Panne said her departure was prompted by “differences in editorial vision and management style,” but she declined to elaborate. Euclid Media didn’t return any calls as of Friday morning.

“I loved the work I did, and it was a delight to work with the Metro Times team,” Vande Panne told me. “I feel really good about what we were able to do.”

mt cover hockeyNo doubt, the quality of journalism improved during Vande Panne’s tenure. The Metro Times featured investigative stories about Detroit’s bankruptcy, the tax-financed Red Wings arena, Gov. Rick Snyder’s mangled education program and the city’s abysmal public transit.

But internally, the Metro Times is struggling, according to three staffers I interviewed for this story. Morale is low, especially after the publication and Real Detroit merged into a “superweekly” in May. Loyal employees were laid off, and the transition has been anything but seamless. The line between journalism and advertising also blurred when the Metro Times began running promotional features – even on the cover – without indicating they were ads.

The nationwide boom at alt-weeklies in the late 1990s ended with advent of online news and advertising a few years later. In 1999, the Metro Times was estimated to be raking in $8 million in annual revenue – more than twice what it makes now. At that time, the Metro Times circulated 110,000 copies, compared to roughly 50,000 today.

The Metro Times has not indicated yet whether they have begun a search for a new editorial-in-chief.

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.

  • misterelrick

    This development would normally make me suggest a boycott of the Metro Times, but if they don’t get their act together – and work like hell to preserve what journalistic integrity remains – it will wither and die on its own. And, as a believer in the importance of the alternative press, i hope that doesn’t happen. Turning the MT into a valuable contributor to our community means the folks in charge are going to have to stop acting like it’s just Real Detroit Weekly operating under a different name.

    • Trexinmichigan

      Indeed. I need less advertising in my life, not more.Figure out the readership.

      • Harry Palmer

        I second that. They need to purge all of “Real Royal Oak” from that paper, they can get back to reporting real news, filling the gaps left by the other media outlets…

    • mediabites

      Elrick, your book sucked. Glad I got it used for 1 cent plus 3.99 online.
      and the earring sucks too. I make two pulitzer prizes in the bathroom every morning, that’s what I think about your journalistic highpoint.

      Now go beat up an old lawyer, paperboy.

      • misterelrick

        It took you 12 days to come up with THAT?

        • mediabites

          No, you mediocre media hack, i had better things to do than read that tripe…
          watching grass grow, clipping my toe nails, taking boxing lessons in case i go to law school and encounter you. ..