A.D. Q&A with A.D. Quig

A.D. Q&A with Chicago Reader Publisher Tracy Baim

Episode Summary

The Chicago Reader is one of the city’s best-known free papers and one of a few remaining alt-weeklies to survive the media crunch that killed dozens across the country. Until recently, the Reader seemed like it was about to go under, too. Our guest this week is the Reader’s publisher, Tracy Baim. She’s been in the Chicago media world since she was a kid. Her mother, father and stepfather were all in the biz. Fresh out of college, she founded the LGBTQ publication the Windy City Times. In 2018, she stepped in to lead the Reader. And what a ride it’s been. When print advertising from bars, restaurants and venues dried up in the early COVID days, the paper survived thanks to a federal PPP loan, another loan from the city, a series of innovative fundraising measures and leftover investment from the paper’s co-owners, lawyer Len Goodman and real estate developer Elzie Higginbottom. But in recent months, a spat with Goodman almost brought the Reader down. He wrote a column detailing his concerns about getting his daughter vaccinated for covid. It led to an uproar and an outside fact-check that found several errors. Editors wanted a correction, an editors note, or for the story to get taken down. Goodman cried censorship, and the fight hit pause on the paper’s transition to nonprofit status, a transition that would have allowed for money from foundations and philanthropists to flow in. In this episode, Baim brings us behind the scenes of that tussle, explains where the Reader goes from here, and forecasts what a broader shift to nonprofit status for legacy media means--for example, is the Sun-Times/WBEZ merger good for all the other, smaller independent publications dotting Chicago? And is there a way for Chicago foundations to pool their money for media in a way that spreads the wealth to smaller outlets?