Metro Times Wins SPJ Awards, Announces Job Moves

Detroit’s Metro Times took 10 awards and an honorable mention in the Detroit chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists’ Excellence in Media competition for dailies of circulation 100,000 and more, and weeklies of circulation of 50,000 and more.

The awards, a record number for Metro Times in the competition, included a clean sweep — first, second and third — in the criticism category, and first and second places in features writing. The criticism awards went to former arts editor Rebecca Mazzei (for a manifesto on public art in Detroit), music editor Bill Holdship (for helming a survey of the most powerful folks in the local music business) and to a selection of pieces by film reviewer Jeff Meyers. In the features category, Mazzei took first place for her profile of area theater director Malcolm Tulip, and managing editor Brian Smith took second for his profile of rapper Invincible. News editor Curt Guyette took a second place for investigative reporting for his work on the Detroit’s waste-to-energy incinerator. (First place went to a Detroit Free Press reporting team for their investigation of the text message scandal that brought down former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick. the Free Press also shared a Pulitzer Prize for that work.)

In feature page design, design director Sean Bieri took first and second places (a clean sweep since no third was awarded). Bieri, Guyette and editor W. Kim Heron took a second place in news graphics for a comic-style retelling of the the Kilpatrick saga: “The Rise and Fall of Kwame-Man.” Cartoonist Mikhaela Reid took a third place for her editorial cartoons, and staff writer Sandra Svoboda received an honorable for her profile of a man exonerated after being convicted and imprisoned in a rape case, and who has become an activist on behalf of the wrongfully convicted. (Metro Times, with a fraction of the staff of the two city dailies, The Detroit News and the Detroit Free Press, took roughly half as many honors as each.)

Svoboda was also honored last week for her work covering claims of wrongful conviction. She placed third in the 2009 Wade H. McCree Jr. Awards for the Advancement of Justice presented by the State Bar of Michigan for Michigan journalists who foster greater public understanding of the legal and judicial system.

In other recent news at the paper, Travis Wright, formerly of the entertainment weekly Real Detroit, recently joined the MT as arts editor. Wright has also been the Detroit correspondent for Spin and contributor to numerous other publications, both low- and high-brow. An accomplished photographer as well as a wordsmith, Wright has backpacked in Australia, imbibed absinthe in Israel and co-written a musical.

Meanwhile, Brian Smith, features editor since 2006, has been promoted to managing editor in overdue recognition of his role in week-to-week and long-term planning for the paper. Smith, formerly of Phoenix New Times, joined Metro Times as music editor in 2002. Smith’s 2007 piece about songwriter Doug Hopkins (“Jesus of Suburbia”) was honored in last year’s SPJ and Michigan Press Association contests, and prompted an outpouring of appreciation from Hopkins fans across the United States and abroad.