Alternative Papers Merge in Milwaukee

Shepherd Express Swallows AAN-Hopeful Metro Milwaukee Weekly.

Longtime AAN member Shepherd Express is merging with Milwaukee’s other alternative paper, Metro Milwaukee Weekly. The two papers will combine offices and staffs to create a new publication named Shepherd Express Metro.

The papers will publish separate issues for the last time on April 29. Shepherd Express Metro will debut the following week.

The merger results in a little less work for AAN’s admissions committee, since Metro Milwaukee Weekly was one of the 23 papers that applied for membership in the association this year. Metro’s AAN membership application was rejected last year when it applied under its former name, “The Paper.”

The merger “makes sense,” according to Shepherd Express Publisher Louis Fortis, because it combines the strengths of two papers that are “just doing okay” while eliminating competitive pressures.

“Having two papers [competing in Milwaukee] makes it tough to be successful,” says Fortis. “[The merger means] we’re taking the best of both and making one stronger paper. It just makes sense to have one [alternative newsweekly] in Milwaukee.”

Shepherd Express Editor Joel McNally and two of his staff writers have already been downsized. McNally’s successor will “very likely” be Metro Milwaukee Editor Bruce Murphy, says Fortis. Murphy — who is still negotiating a contract — served in the 80’s as an arts and entertainment editor at Madison’s Isthmus.

Fortis will remain the papers’ majority owner, and Metro owner Mike Drescher will take a 20 percent stake in the new venture.

Drescher is in California and was unavailable for comment.