Michael Yockel, the editor of City Paper, Baltimore's largest alternative weekly newspaper, was fired yesterday after five years on the job.
"I was entirely shocked," said Mr. Yockel, a 41-year-old Baltimore native who has worked at City Paper off and on for 14 years. "I have no idea why I was dismissed."
The paper's general manager, Donald Farley, walked into the editorial offices after this week's edition was sent to the presses, Mr. Yockel said, and announced, "I think it's time for a change, and that Michael Yockel and City Paper ought to have a parting of the ways."
Mr. Farley said he had named Associate Editor Sono Motoyama to replace Mr. Yockel.
"Basically, we were just looking for a change," Mr. Farley said. "We just parted ways."
He said the paper needs "a new focus for the future," although he declined to describe that new direction.
City Paper is a free weekly specializing in coverage of music, the arts and the quirkier aspects of Baltimore's neighborhoods, politics and characters.
It has been a showcase for budding and veteran journalists, authors, poets and photographers.
The newspaper, which was bought by Times/Shamrock Communications L.P. of Scranton, Pa., in 1987, has an audited weekly circulation of 86,000, according to Mr. Farley, who oversees the business operations of City Paper.
He did not mention any concerns about advertising or circulation numbers. Instead, he said, Ms. Motoyama "and I will be having discussions as time goes on" about the future of the newspaper's editorial content.
Ms. Motoyama, 29, has been at the paper for about a year. She came to Baltimore to join the master's degree program in writing at the Johns Hopkins University.
Before that, she was a free-lance writer and editor in New York who wrote for the New Yorker, Interview magazine and other publications.
"Basically, I guess they just thought they needed a change," Ms. Motoyama said yesterday.
Mr. Yockel said that he was not aware of any recent differences or problems between himself and Mr. Farley.
Three years ago, he said, the two fought about the growing advertising content at the paper, which had reached almost 70 percent, compared with 30 percent editorial content. Also, Mr. Yockel said, he expressed concerns about the sexual nature of some of the ads near the back of the newspaper.
But the two men worked out their differences with the help of the owners in Pennsylvania, he said, and have not had a major fight since then.
"I wasn't given any concrete reasons," Mr. Yockel said. "I was never made aware that my work was unacceptable in any way. I feel I've been treated very shabbily."