Journalists and friends unite to save the Chicago reader

know about Journalists and friends unite to save the Chicago reader

Current and former staff of the Chicago Reader, along with friends and fans of the 51-year-old Chicago independent alternative weekly, members of organized labor and others rallied outside Reader co-owner Len Goodman’s mansion in Lakeview on Thursday, imploring him to allow the publication to complete its transformation into a non-profit organization.

Goodman, a criminal defense attorney and real estate developer Elzie Higginbottom, bought The Reader from the Sun-Times in 2018 for $1 and took on its debt and operating expenses. The same year, Tracy Baim, who took over as editor, created a plan to transition the publication to a nonprofit organization. That process has since stalled in the fallout from a column Goodman wrote titled “Why Don’t I Hurry Up and Get My Six-Year-Old Vaccinated Against COVID-19?”

Goodman’s column says something like what can be found in any number of garden variety outlets promoting dubious claims about COVID and vaccines. According to Poynter, The Reader’s management hired an outside fact-checker who found 15 inaccuracies or misleading statements in his column. Goodman, however, disputes the fact-checkers’ findings. According to documents obtained by Block Club Chicago, Baim suggested revisions and an editor’s note, which Goodman not only rejected, but compared to “censorship”. Goodman and one of his board appointees delayed the sale and made additional demands, including three additional seats on the nonprofit board and Baim’s resignation.

Goodman told Poynter:

“There’s very little space for dissent or dissent in the press. That’s one of the reasons I invested in the Reader because it’s always had a place where you could say things that were unpopular and say things that would make people feel uncomfortable.” people in power. We want to make sure the nonprofit upholds that tradition.”

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Goodman’s column remains in its original form, and many opinions similar to those expressed on America’s largest cable news channel and the number one podcast on Spotify can be found, not to mention regularly shared by many politicians at the political level. national. and local.

Reader’s editorial union says that without the ability to transition to a nonprofit, the paper could run out of money in weeks.

Outside Goodman’s mansion, the crowd of about 100 people chanted “Free The Reader” and “Len Goodman has to go.”

“This legacy should not be sacrificed at the hands of someone who doesn’t understand the difference between censorship and journalistic integrity,” said Yasmin Zacaria Mikhaiel, audience engagement manager for The Reader. “We implore Len Goodman to free The Reader to save The Reader. Save this legacy and save the jobs of 35 brilliant employees who are responsible for their continued rigor and determination.”

Reader reporter Kelly Garcia, currently the sole reporter for the grant-funded racial justice reporting center and Reader writers’ room, called the delay “a crisis brought about by Len Goodman.”

“The racial justice reporting center cannot stand on the shoulders of one person. I was promised an editor and more writers, but we haven’t been able to because we’re dealing with a man-made crisis, a Len Goodman-made crisis” Garcia told the crowd. “If we don’t transition to a nonprofit, our grant-funded racial justice reporting center and writers room won’t get done, and I could possibly lose my job.”

“Len, you prevent us from welcoming a new generation of writers who are eager to offer fresh perspectives, which contradicts your claims about censorship,” Garcia added. “You are only concerned with your authoritative and dangerous views that have long been the standard in journalism.”

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Chicagoans, including members of the journalistic community, politicians and union organizers, also expressed their support for the staff and recalled their experiences and interactions with the publication during its more than half-century existence.

“The Reader takes chances with diverse writers and reporters who often don’t get the chance elsewhere. I’m one of those reporters,” said Tiffany Walden, editor-in-chief of Triibe. “When I came back to Chicago, despite years of experience covering breaking news and going to Medill and spending all that money, I couldn’t get any media work in Chicago, I couldn’t get a break when I came back to Chicago. I introduced him to I gave Phillip a story and he let me do it. That was the first time I was able to pitch a story in Chicago and get paid for it… Without The Reader, Chicago would be a much harder place for diverse voices to get their shot at the media”.

“What makes Chicago a great city is not the height of the skyscrapers built by insurance companies,” said Chicago Teachers Union President Jesse Sharkey. “What makes it a great city is the people who have had to fight and organize to preserve their dignity.”

Chicago Councilman Carlos Ramirez-Rosa said The Reader helped him find his community as a young queer man and that the earlier section of the publication called “Clout City” helped shape his policies regarding TIFs. In Chicago. “I can tell you that I don’t think he would be here today as a councilman, leading some of the fights against TIF if it wasn’t for that column in the Chicago Reader,” Ramirez-Rosa said.

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“I’m sure every person here has a story or stories of how the Chicago Reader has impacted their life,” he added. “It made them richer, it made them better.”

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