Growing up with Metro Times 

When I first came to work as listings editor at the Metro Times in 1985, MT founders Ron Williams and Laura Markham asked what I expected to be doing in five years. It was a standard job interview question; I use it myself when interviewing prospective employees. But at the time it was a stretch for me to think five years ahead. I was used to working a job long enough to save money so I could go traveling. As it was, I had just returned from two months in Mexico and Central America and was casting about for work. Then I read the want ad for listings editor in the MT.

I guess I was supposed to say something like, “In five years, I’ll be running this paper.” What I did say was that I’d be doing something in the writing field. I didn’t have much of a career plan, but I did know that writing was my game.

I got the job on the bottom rung of a three-person editorial staff. Rosanne Less was managing editor and Williams was editor. Our three desks were in the same small room in the State Theatre building, and there was no such thing as a private conversation. The paper was usually 32 or 36 pages, and most folks still didn’t know what you meant when you called and said you were from the Metro Times.

In 1987, seeing little chance for advancement on the small staff, I left MT to freelance for a couple of years. By 1989 the editorial staff had grown to five people — now in the David Whitney Building — and I came back as managing editor that November. During the next year-and-a-half I really learned journalism and writing. Working 55-hour weeks, I sat at my desk and rewrote story after story. I learned what worked and what didn’t work, what I did and didn’t like.

That experience landed me a job as assistant entertainment editor at the Free Press in 1991. I learned more there, but in 1995 I went on strike. My father was a union man, and I couldn’t see a reason to change that legacy. So I came back to the MT in 1997 when the managing editor job opened again. A few months later I became editor of a staff of more than a dozen, above Flood’s Bar in the Detroit Cornice and Slate Building.

All of this is to say that I grew up as a journalist along with the Metro Times. I learned newspapering as the Metro Times became a newspaper. The MT’s belief in and support of the local music and arts scenes, its promotion of alternative culture, its commitment to progressive politics have all been closely parallel to my own beliefs over the years. Sure, a lot has changed at MT over the years, but a lot has stayed the same. We want to bring you the stories that you care about and that the other papers won’t print. We want the nerve and edge to ferret out the cool things happening and take on those who would do you wrong. We’re not afraid to be called liberal or left. We’re not afraid to show you a different Detroit. And we’re absolutely committed to diversity.

As a native and a longtime MT editor, that’s a promise.

More by Larry Gabriel

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