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Thursday, October 18, 2018

Staffer Ryan Smith says goodbye to the Reader

Posted By on 10.18.18 at 05:15 PM

Bruce Rauner adopts some culturally liberal causes in service of his cruel economic campaign. - RYAN SMITH
  • Ryan Smith
  • Bruce Rauner adopts some culturally liberal causes in service of his cruel economic campaign.

Shortly after Sun-Times Media bought the Reader, CEO Edwin Eisendrath admitted he didn't really know what an "alternative" publication in Chicago had to offer these days. Alternative to what?

In some ways, he had a point. Alt-weeklies have increasingly become a victim of their own success. The countercultural beat of weed, LGBTQ pride, edgy theater, and punk music that once set the alternative press apart have increasingly become permanently etched into mainstream urban life. The entrenched power structures that used to vehemently oppose the rights of gays—Republicans, the police, and the military—now regularly march at Pride parades. Billionaire businessman J.B. Pritzker wants Illinoisians to be able to smoke weed for fun. Riot Fest, punk rock's annual nostalgia fest, doesn't inspire anything resembling a riot.

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Monday, October 8, 2018

In a face-off against Pritzker, Rauner tries a little Reagan-style voodoo economics

Posted By on 10.08.18 at 06:00 AM

Governor Bruce Rauner and Democratic opponent J.B. Pritzker - WLS-TV CHANNEL 7
  • WLS-TV Channel 7
  • Governor Bruce Rauner and Democratic opponent J.B. Pritzker

They were about 12 minutes into the most recent gubernatorial debate last Wednesday when ABC Seven political reporter Craig Wall asked J.B. Pritzker the tax-rate question.

"Mr. Pritzker," Wall asked, "don’t you think the voters deserve to know how much you intend to raise taxes and what those rates would be?"

Pritzker responded by explaining why he thinks the state needs a progressive or "fair" tax that sets a higher rate for the rich. But he said he wouldn't be settling on rates until he had negotiated a deal with state legislators.

In other words, he ducked Wall's question.

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Wednesday, October 3, 2018

The Intercept’s Jeremy Scahill is at war with American exceptionalism and imperialism

Posted By on 10.03.18 at 05:59 AM

  • Kholood Eid for The Intercept
  • Jeremy Scahill

There was no obvious moment when the torch passed during host Jeremy Scahill's interview with Seymour Hersh on a recent live episode of Intercepted, but it wasn't difficult to imagine one.

Like Hersh, Scahill was born on the south side of Chicago, and his worldview was partially shaped by his family's experience in the city he calls "this amazing place filled with contradictions."

The 43-year-old investigative journalist and cofounding editor of online news site the Intercept is also following in the formidable footsteps of his Pulitzer Prize-winning forebear in his choice of career. Both men have made their marks unmasking corruption and abuses of power at the highest level of the U.S. government—especially in the domains of wars and foreign policy. For Hersh, it was exposing the My Lai massacre during the Vietnam war, the torture of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib, and the CIA's secret surveillance programs. Scahill's reporting helped uncover ugly truths behind Blackwater, the private mercenary army employed by the Bush administration during the Iraq war, and shone a light on the U.S. military's bloody covert operations and drone assassinations during the Obama years.

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Monday, October 1, 2018

Reader announces Anne Elizabeth Moore as editor in chief, Karen Hawkins as digital managing editor

Posted on 10.01.18 at 10:02 AM

Anne Elizabeth Moore
  • Anne Elizabeth Moore

Award-winning cultural critic and comics journalist Anne Elizabeth Moore has been hired by the new publishers of the Chicago Reader as editor in chief.

Moore has worked in independent media since the age of 11, more recently on such projects as Punk Planet, the Ladydrawers, the Best American Comics series, and at Truthout. At a 2011 launch for her book Cambodian Grrrl at the Chicago Cultural Center, she was described as having "pushed Chicago to reenvision what publishing could be for two decades."

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Wednesday, September 26, 2018

An ESPN podcast documentary gets a first-of-its-kind premiere party in Chicago

Posted By on 09.26.18 at 11:00 AM


If a movie can get a premiere party—why can't a podcast?

In the latest sign that the streaming audio medium has reached critical mass, the ESPN 30 for 30 podcasts episode "Juiced," about ex-professional baseball slugger Jose Canseco, will make its debut in front of a live audience at Logan Auditorium on October 7—11 days before it shows up in podcast feeds.

It's part of the podcast-apalooza that is the Fest, a two-week-long festival starting October 1 that features live podcast tapings and other audio events in venues across Chicago. The Fest's events overlap with the 17th Third Coast Conference, the annual conference for the podcast and audio-story industry conference.

"The audio premiere is long overdue," says Emily Kennedy, Third Coast Festival programs manager. 

"A podcast episode takes just as much editing, love and attention to create as any other documentary and listening to a podcast is just as addictive, intimate, and immersive as watching a film. We think that audio documentaries should be treated with the same respect and attention as film."

It might sound strange to listen to recorded audio together in an audience—but it's far from unprecedented. Listening parties are becoming a bigger part of the music industry. Just ask Kanye West, who held a star-studded debut of his album Ye in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, in June. Third Coast Fest has previously held events in which they've invited audiences to Chicago venues like the Hideout to listen to podcasts in-the-dark together.

"The model of a listening event is basically: audio is immersive. Audio is powerful. And listening all together is a unique—and transformative—experience," says Maya Goldberg-Safir, Third Coast Fest's artistic director.

Yes, Jose Canseco was once with the White Sox too. - ELAINE THOMPSON/AP
  • Elaine Thompson/AP
  • Yes, Jose Canseco was once with the White Sox too.

ESPN's series of 30 for 30 audio documentaries has been praised as "This American Life but for sports."  The podcast's producers are leading their third season with the world premiere of the episode Juiced—also the name of Canseco's controversial 2005 memoir about his 17-year baseball career and use of performance-enhancing drugs, to which he owns up in the book. Juiced also infamously named names of various teammates of Canseco who also allegedly used steroids.

The podcast is described by the producers as a behind-the-scenes look at the messy making of the book: "The fallout from the publication is well documented—it is the first book to ever spark a congressional hearing. Our story pulls back that curtain to uncover the in-over-his-head editor and the veteran ghostwriter that worked to contain Canseco every step of the way.”

The former Oakland A's star and onetime White Sox outfielder still can't manage to keep away from controversy. He got fired from a broadcasting job with NBC Sports California last year after he tweeted out careless jokes about the burgeoning #MeToo movement.

30 for 30 Live Sun 10/7, 6-7:30 PM, Logan Square Auditorium, 2539 N. Kedzie,, $15-$22.

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Monday, September 24, 2018

Here's hoping that the myth of the bad teacher is finally laid to rest

Posted By on 09.24.18 at 06:00 AM

Karen Lewis, then-president of the Chicago Teachers Union, speaking at CTU rally outside the Thompson Center, April 1, 2016 - ONE ILLINOIS/TED COX
  • One Illinois/Ted Cox
  • Karen Lewis, then-president of the Chicago Teachers Union, speaking at CTU rally outside the Thompson Center, April 1, 2016

If I'm reading the cards right, 2018 will go down in history as the year the  myth of the bad teacher finally, mercifully, and hopefully was consigned to the dustbin of history.

I say hopefully, because some myths die hard, especially when the powers that be—and that would be you, Governor Rauner—have much to gain by promoting them.

But let's focus on the good news.

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Sunday, September 9, 2018

Who can say who wrote that unsigned New York Times essay? Who can say but shouldn't?

Posted By on 09.09.18 at 12:20 PM


Should the New York Times have published an anonymous op-ed by a "senior" administration official that was sure to send the president on a rampage? Was the author gutless not to sign it? Margaret Sullivan, media columnist for the Washington Post (she’d earlier held a similar position at the Times), has weighed in, saying "yes" to the first question and "possibly" to the second. But Sullivan was witty enough to look past these two obvious debate points into what she called a "quagmire of weirdness: fraught with issues of journalistic ethics and possibly even legal concerns."

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Friday, September 7, 2018

Will Elon Musk's bullet train to O'Hare go up in smoke?

Posted By on 09.07.18 at 06:54 PM

Elon Musk says his Boring Company is a "hobby company" that started as a joke.
  • Elon Musk says his Boring Company is a "hobby company" that started as a joke.

Is Elon Musk's electric rollerskate tunnel to O'Hare just an elaborate prank on Chicago?

The Tesla and Space X CEO's bizarre, pot smoke-filled performance on Joe Rogan's podcast Thursday night makes it an open question. Near the beginning of the rambling two-and-a-half hour conversation on The Joe Rogan Experience — and before the two shared a joint — Musk described The Boring Company as a "hobby company" that started as a joke.

"And we decided to make it real, and dig a tunnel under L.A.," he said. "And then other people asked us to build tunnels so we said yes in a few cases."

Those "other people" includes the city of Chicago, which in June gave the Boring Company the green light to build a high-speed electric pod-based underground mass transit system in Chicago to O'Hare. Since the announcement, details of the Boring Company's deal with the city of Chicago have remained maddeningly scarce. The Better Government Association sued the city last month for failing to provide public documents relating to the project. 
Musk bragged that the whole project would cost less than a $1 billion and be operational within three years. Mayor Rahm Emanuel praised it as "the fast lane to the city's future" and pooh-poohed critics who said the numbers for the "Tesla-in-a-tunnel" didn't seem to add up.

"Look, there were doubters about putting a man on the moon," Emanuel told CBS News in June while on a mini-media tour with Musk. Even after he announced he wouldn't run for re-election earlier this week, the mayor said he still wants to move forward with the plan.

But one of those doubters now appears to be Musk himself. He casually admitted that his plan to build a high-tech underground transportation network in Los Angeles—one that he described as "like an underground snake"—may not work.

"I'm not asserting that it's going to be successful," Musk told Rogan. " ... I've lived in L.A. for 16 years. And the traffic has always been terrible. I don't see any other ideas for improving the traffic. So in desperation, we're going to dig a tunnel. And maybe that tunnel will be successful, and maybe it won't. I'm not trying to convince you it's going to work."

Rogan seemed dumbfounded by the statement. "This is a project you've started though, right?" he asked.

"We've dug about a mile. It's quite long," Musk said matter-of-factly. "It would take a long time to walk it."

This far, the Boring Company's biggest accomplishment—beyond digging a mile-long hole in the ground in Los Angeles—is convincing the public to buy 50,000 baseball caps bearing the company's logo and 20,000 devices dubbed "not-a-flamethrowers." The flamethrowers, Musk says, were based on a gag from Mel Brooks's Star Wars spoof.

"In Spaceballs the Movie, (the Yoda parody character) Yogurt goes through the merchandising section, and they have a flamethrower in the merchandising section...the kids love that one," Musk said. "And it's like, 'We should do a flamethrower.'"

"Does anyone tell you no?" Rogan wondered. Isn't selling a $500 flamethrower online a dumb idea?

"Yeah, it's a terrible idea. Terrible, you shouldn't buy one. I said don't buy this flamethrower. Don't buy it. Still, people bought it," Musk replied. "To be totally frank it's just a roofing torch with an air-rifle cover. It's not a real flamethrower. We were very clear, this is not actually a flamethrower."

In other words, Musk duped a bunch of suckers into buying his fake flamethrowers.

Did he pull off the same feat with several municipalities buying into his unproven underground "electric skates" transit systems? Time will tell.

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Tuesday, August 14, 2018

How this got made: the award-winning 2017 Best of Chicago issue cover

Posted By and on 08.14.18 at 06:00 AM

  • Danielle A. Scruggs

The Chicago Reader won three awards from the Association of Alternative Newsmedia 2018 Awards two weeks ago. Among them was the honorable mention painters Shelby Rodeffer and Julian Baker at Finer Signs—together with former director of photography Danielle A. Scruggs and me, the paper's graphic designer—received for the cover design for our 2017 Best of Chicago issue. The cover depicted a mural on the wall of the Polish-Korean restaurant Kimski in Bridgeport, painted by the Finer Signs team and photographed by Danielle. The process began with a chance meeting. But it was brought to completion by our team.

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Friday, August 10, 2018

Alec Klein, Northwestern professor accused of sexual misconduct, resigns

Posted By on 08.10.18 at 04:53 PM

  • Northwestern University
  • Alec Klein
Six months after a group of ten women first came forward with allegations of sexual misconduct, bullying, and harassment against Alec Klein, the Northwestern University journalism professor has resigned.

In a statement released Friday afternoon, a university spokesman confirmed Klein's departure and wrote that Klein will no longer "be present on Northwestern’s campus or attend any University events."

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