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Tracy Baim to become publisher of the Chicago Reader
2018-09-13

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An agreement has been reached between the Chicago Sun-Times, owner of the Chicago Reader weekly newspaper, and a private investment group which has formed an L3C to purchase the Reader to ensure it remains a vital voice in the local media landscape.

Dorothy R. Leavell, publisher of the Chicago and Gary Crusader newspapers, will be chairman of the Reader board of directors. Board treasurer will be Eileen Rhodes, president of East Lake Management Group, and secretary will be Jessica Stites, executive editor of In These Times magazine.

The publisher of the Reader will be Tracy Baim, co-founder and publisher of Windy City Times newspaper. Baim will be stepping away from day-to-day responsibilities at Windy City Times. Her WCT management team—Terri Klinsky, Andrew Davis, Kirk Williamson, Jean Albright and Matt Simonette—will be responsible for the weekly production of Windy City Times.

The major investors behind the Reader purchase are longtime business leader Elzie Higginbottom and criminal defense attorney Leonard Goodman. A public fundraising and membership drive will also launch soon.

The new leadership team will take over the Reader in October 2018, with an official re-launch later this fall.

The Reader, founded in 1971, is among the last remaining alternative weekly newspapers that came out of the 1960s and 1970s counter-culture movements. The new owners will continue the strong tradition of cultural coverage and investigative reporting, focusing on both print and digital distribution channels.

"I am very happy to be part of the team saving this important media institution," said Leavell. "There is a great opportunity here to expand the Reader coverage throughout the city and near suburbs of Chicago." Since 1968, Leavell has served as editor and publisher of the Crusader Newspaper Group—Chicago and Gary, Ind.—after the death of her first husband Balm L. Leavell Jr., co-founder of both publications in 1940 and 1961, respectively. In 2017, Leavell, awarded many times over for her community and publishing work, was elected Chairman of the National Newspaper Publishers Association, a Black newspaper trade organization.

"The Chicago Sun-Times worked hard to save the Chicago Reader these past 14 months," said Edwin Eisendrath, CEO of the Sun-Times. "This deal is good for the Reader, good for the Sun-Times, and good for Chicago. It took some time to get right, as it became clear that more resources, including staffing, were needed to shore up the Reader for its next phase. All of us at the Sun-Times are proud to turn the Reader over to this remarkable group of people who will make sure this independent voice is not lost."

"This is a very exciting challenge and opportunity," said Baim. "The Reader is an iconic media company and is a critical voice in Chicago. I look forward to continuing its tradition, and expanding its reach." In 1985, Baim co-founded Windy City Times, one of a handful of weekly LGBT newspapers remaining in the U.S. The author of 12 books, Baim has won numerous awards for her work as a journalist and publisher, including induction into journalism and LGBT halls of fame, most recently the Association of Women Journalists-Chicago Hall of Fame.


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