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  WINDY CITY TIMES

Change is in the air
by Tracy Baim
2018-09-19

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Windy City Times is marking its 33rd anniversary this month. As co-founder and publisher, I could not be more proud of what this paper and related sister publications have accomplished. I know we have not been perfect, but we have given our hearts to this passion project for so many years.

Now it is time for a change.

A few weeks ago, I was asked by the incoming owners of the Chicago Reader, the city's weekly alternative newspaper since 1971, to come on board as publisher. It was an offer I could not refuse.

But the reason I could accept is because Windy City Times will be in great hands with our leadership team. Terri Klinsky has been with WCT for 23 years, and she is moving up to become publisher. Andrew Davis started as a freelancer 23 years ago, became managing editor 12 years ago and is now executive editor. Kirk Williamson, with us starting 17 years ago, is art director and associate editor. Matt Simonette, a senior news reporter and assistant editor, will now be managing editor. Jean Albright, my life partner for 24 years and with the company almost as long, is web director, calendar editor and circulation manager. And Scott Duff is our social-media guru and senior account executive.

There are actually more than 50 other people who help us, from hard-working delivery drivers to salespeople, business people, vendors, writers, photographers and editors, including theater/dance editor Catey Sullivan. Martie Marro is our website host extraordinaire.

For me, this is certainly bittersweet, but I am still majority owner of Windy City Times, and will guide it from afar. I just will not be part of the day-to-day running of WCT.

A native Chicagoan, I started as a part-time reporter, typesetter, photographer and sometimes-delivery person at GayLife newspaper in June 1984, right out of college. All I have ever wanted to be was a journalist. To be one, I knew I had to also know all aspects of what it took to produce a newspaper. So I have been adapting to new tools and technology my entire career, in order to do what I love. I have ventured into event organizing ( Gay Games VII, the March on Springfield for Marriage Equality, etc. ), sales, marketing, social media and conference planning. I have worked on youth homeless issues intensely for five years, including most recently on youth storage lockers and tiny homes.

All of these skills and connections have given me the confidence to attempt what may seem impossible. To try to re-launch the Reader into a financially solvent and culturally relevant print and online publication that will serve the needs of a city as diverse as this one.

I love what I do. Every day for the last 34 years, I have been able to wake up knowing that I have a mission, even if it has almost always been a struggle. The struggle is not really about the work load. I love working hard. It's my main addiction. I don't smoke, drink alcohol, do drugs or even coffee, but I am addicted to telling stories, to amplifying voices, to covering the people and places of this amazing city we can love and still want to improve. The struggle is usually about the funding—the question of how we fund this kind of work.

What is most exciting to me about taking the experiences, skills and connections I have and layering them over a new publication is that in many ways I have felt frustrated in wanting to do larger social justice and cultural coverage of this city—constrained by parameters of the work at WCT. We cover the Chicago LGBTQ community in-depth, and are able to sometimes go into larger coverage, without losing our core focus.

Now, I am moving to the major league. The Reader covers a wider swath of the city and suburbs, and that presents exciting new opportunities to look at the intersections of all communities. That includes across all races, religions, geographies, genders, sexual orientations, classes and more. There is so much right with this city, but also so much wrong. We are depressingly divided along so many lines. We have invisible borders everywhere. This city and its leaders have neglected massive segments of this town, and there are so many neighborhoods and people in crisis.

We can do better. There is always room for a better and more informed approach. Media are part of this. The Fourth Estate is a key pillar in a civil society. Without the media, in its many forms, watching taxpayer dollars, elected officials, institutions, foundations, corporations and other entities, corruption grows unchallenged.

Windy City Times and the Reader both play roles as watchdogs and amplifiers. I have been lucky to do this work in the LGBTQ community for 34 years. Now, I am excited to apply that knowledge to the larger landscape of this city.

Put me in coach—I'm ready.

Tracy Baim can be reached at publisher@chicagoreadercorp.com . Terri Klinsky is at terri@windycitymediagroup.com . Andrew Davis is at andrew@windycitymediagroup.com .


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