The Metro Times has fired longtime reporter and editor Curt Guyette for telling a journalist last week the paper was being put up for sale by the Pennsylvania company that owns it.
Guyette, 57, worked for the Metro Times for 18 years and has won awards for a variety of stories. In recent years, he broke news because he paid close attention to the machinations of Manny Moroun, the owner of the Ambassador Bridge, long before the rest of the Detroit media realized Moroun's takeovers of city streets and parkland were newsworthy.
This is what Guyette posted on his Facebook page today:
"After 18 years on the job, I was fired from the Metro Times on Friday. Earlier in the week we'd been told that the paper was being put up for sale, and that the information was being put on the Times-Shamrock website as we spoke, but that staff were prohibited from talking to any media about it, because the company wanted to 'control' the message.
"I ignored the order, and was 'terminated' for 'gross insubordination' and 'breach of company trust.' No dispute about the insubordination; as for the breach of trust, that cuts both ways. Not sure what the future holds, but after reflecting on the situation for a few days I can say that I am relieved to be gone. The MT, for me anyway, had become a soul-killing place, and I'm happy that I'm no longer there. And now a new chapter in my life begins. Life is good."
The journalist Guyette talked to was me. Actually, we only exchanged emails. He emailed me Monday, Aug. 26, saying the paper was for sale, and I should talk to Chris Sexson, the Metro Times' publisher. Guyette gave me Sexson's number. Guyette did not tell me to keep his name out of it; he did not ask for anonymity.
About that time, the company that owns the Metro Times released a statement that announced it was selling a number of properties, including its Detroit weekly.
I left a message for Sexson, and when he failed to return my call, I emailed Guyette, asking if he could help me with details off the record. Guyette declined, saying his bosses told the staff not to talk to the media, and to direct inquires to Sexson.
So it appears Sexson fired Guyette even though Guyette obeyed his order not to divulge information about the sale, and to refer media questions to Sexson. In essence, Guyette's transgression was to have alerted me to information that was already public.
Sexson did not respond to an email. His comments will be posted as soon as they are received.
Guyette, who grew up in central Pennsylvania, came to the Metro Times in 1995 after working for the Sacramento News & Review.
"What made me happy," he said Monday, "was the freedom the paper has given me over the years to pursue stories I'm interested in."
Founded 33 years ago as an alternative publication, the Metro Times took on a more corporate bearing when it was purchased by Times-Shamrock Communications of Scranton, Penn., in 2000, but its news coverage retained a populist tone, and its stories carry a frankness and point of view that are not found in the Free Press or News.
"We came at things from an aggressively progressive angle -- unabashedly progressive -- but I hope we were also seen as being very credible," Guyette said.
Among hundreds of stories Guyette wrote or edited at the paper were early reports that Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick had a philandering problem, which eventually contributed heavily to his downfall, and pieces that probed beneath the surface of big stories, such as the connections among Michigan conservatives and think tanks concerning education reform, Detroit's bankruptcy and right to work legislation.
In 2004, he walked the 44-mile length of Outer Drive, from Grosse Pointe Park on the east, through Detroit, to Ecorse on the west, and wrote about the experience.
Why do that?
This is part of what Guyette wrote at the beginning on Part One of the two-part series:
"Part of it, I’m sure, is the singular Detroitness of the road itself. Roam almost anywhere in the city or its inner burbs to the west, and you’ll encounter Outer Drive. It’s ubiquitous. It’s a curiosity. It’s indecisive, vectorless. Outer Drive, a colossal, jangled inverted horseshoe, doesn’t seem to lead anywhere in particular. Yet is seems to lead everywhere.
I wonder what its bizarre and beautiful existence means to Detroit, if anything. I wonder what seeing it all by foot will mean to me.
"Another motivation is undoubtedly the contrarian in me. I’m tired of the prevailing image that Detroit is some sort of hellhole, populated by homicidal maniacs."
On Facebook, Guette said: "One thing needs to be made absolutely clear: I’ve got no gripe with the MT for firing me.
"My anger/resentment/disappointment/profound sorrow is reserved for what this paper I’ve been so proud of the past 18 years has become. Would I have liked to have gone out differently? Definitely. But am I sad to be gone? Not an iota.
"Like I said to one of my former workpals just after I got the boot, 'At least there was no electroshock or forced lobotomy.' Life is good. And its going to get even better. So don't anyone say they feel sorry for me, or that they're sad. This is a life-changing event, that's for sure. But just as certain is the fact that the road ahead leads to a better place."
For an archive on the Metro Times' website of Guyette's stories, click here.