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Monday, December 10, 2018

Reader announces Sujay Kumar as print managing editor

Posted on 12.10.18 at 04:35 PM

sujay-kumar.jpg

Previously of the Daily Beast and Fusion, culture and investigative reporter Sujay Kumar has been hired as managing editor for the print edition of the Reader.

"The Reader has a rich history of doing two things I love: investigative work and culture reporting," Kumar said. "I can’t wait to join the staff in Bronzeville and build on that legacy. Also, I like how the paper smells."

Recently, he’s been reporting an investigative magazine feature in Carbondale and fact checking books for Columbia Global Reports. He has a master’s degree in journalism from Columbia University. He is a Chicagoan by way of Saskatchewan.

"Sujay brings to the Reader a thoughtful demeanor and a dedication to Chicago-based investigative work that will prove central to expanding the ways in which we can engage directly with the people of this city," said editor in chief Anne Elizabeth Moore. "I'm thrilled to bring him on board as we reinvigorate the alternative newsweekly model at this vital moment."

An agreement has been signed between Sun-Times Media, owner of the Chicago Sun-Times as well as the Chicago Reader, and a private investment group that has formed an L3C to purchase the Reader to ensure it remains a vital voice in the local media landscape. The paper will continue to publish every week.

A new leadership team took over publishing duties of the Reader on October 1, 2018. Dorothy R. Leavell, publisher of the Chicago Crusader and its sister publication, the Gary Crusader, is chairman of the Reader board of directors. Board treasurer is Eileen Rhodes, president of East Lake Management Group, and secretary is Jessica Stites, executive editor of In These Times.

The major investors behind the Reader purchase are longtime business leader Elzie Higginbottom and criminal defense attorney Leonard Goodman. A public fund-raising campaign and membership drive launched December 6, and supports the paper’s re-establishment as an independently owned newspaper.

The Reader, founded in 1971, is among the most robust of the alternative newsweeklies to emerge from the 1960s and 1970s counterculture movements. The new owners will continue the strong tradition of cultural coverage and investigative reporting, focusing on both print and digital distribution channels.

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Monday, December 3, 2018

Tavi Gevinson says goodbye to Rookie

Posted By on 12.03.18 at 06:00 AM

rookie.jpeg

There were few publications that defined girlhood in the 2010s as distinctly as the online magazine Rookie. Rookie felt like the public diary of a whole generation, taking the stories and artwork of thousands of teens across the world and consolidating them into what now feels like a time capsule of an era I hadn’t quite realized had ended.

Last Friday morning, Tavi Gevinson, the founder and editor in chief of the online magazine, published a six-page editor’s letter that announced sad news: that letter would be the last post on the site. The magazine “in its current form is no longer financially sustainable,” Gevinson wrote, and the website would be shut down in a few months, marking the end of an era for many readers.

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Friday, November 30, 2018

Chance the Rapper offers a video preview of the new Chicagoist

Posted By on 11.30.18 at 05:06 PM

Chance says his vision for Chicagoist is to "allow more people to have voices, to give a bigger platform for Chicago voices to speak." - KAREN HAWKINS
  • Karen Hawkins
  • Chance says his vision for Chicagoist is to "allow more people to have voices, to give a bigger platform for Chicago voices to speak."

When Chance the Rapper announced via a single in July that he was buying Chicagoist—the hyperlocal news site closed by billionaire owner Joe Ricketts the previous November—there was a ton of speculation about what he'd do with it. At an invitation-only event Friday morning, a collection of journalists, young aldermanic candidates, professors, and supporters got a first glimpse of the goods.

The whole event was shrouded in mystery, and the few folks I spoke to as we waited at Northeastern Illinois University's Jacob H. Carruthers Center for Inner City Studies in Bronzeville were as excitedly baffled as I was about what exactly we were in for.

That turned out to be a video, but before it rolled, retired Northeastern Professor Conrad Worrill (a longtime friend of Chance's dad) set the scene by telling us that some of history's greatest black intellectuals and artists had once graced the same stage, among them W.E.B. Du Bois and Langston Hughes.

Then the video began: puppet news anchors—that's right, I said puppet—introduce a Chicagoist investigation by "Champ" the reporter, played by young Chance in a beige throwback suit and a taped-on mustache he keeps pressing back into place as he talks.
Chance as Chicagoist TV reporter Champ Bennett - KAREN HAWKINS
  • Karen Hawkins
  • Chance as Chicagoist TV reporter Champ Bennett

Champ/Chance then delivers a 101-level lesson in Chicago politics, set to music with what Sun-Times journalist Kathy Chaney astutely described as a Schoolhouse Rock vibe.

People-on-the-street interviews demonstrate just how little people on the street know about how their city runs. (What does an alderman do? What's the City Council? How many wards does Chicago have? No one knows.) More formal interviews with local reporters and aldermanic hopefuls, many of them people of color (and many of them in the audience watching the video with us), explore the challenges faced by candidates who lack clout, connections, and resources. A bewigged Hannibal Buress hams it up in the role of fictitious 51st ward alderman Al Durhman, who proudly proclaims that he just votes "yes" to everything and has been re-elected for years after inheriting the seat from his daddy.


During a Q&A after the video, Chance said it would be posted on his YouTube channel but not on Chicagoist, which he noted is still under construction.

Chance said he was inspired to do the piece by the realization that he'd only learned that the City Council is made up of aldermen when he visited one of its meetings last year—and that this kind of knowledge gap keeps people from being engaged in government and electoral politics. The new Chicagoist has a chance to fix that, and Chance said he hopes to get the video included in the curriculum at CPS.

He offered few details about what else Chicagoist is up to, but he promised that it would be "grand"—and that it would offer its audience more context for the news of the day.

"The overall idea is to allow more people to have voices, to give a bigger platform for Chicago voices to speak," Chance said—not just in the realm of hyperlocal journalism but also in the world at large (including, of course, in music). "I'm not trying to say too much, but it's cool, though—it's a cool thing."

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Monday, November 26, 2018

Goodbye to Tony Adler, the best weekly theater critic Chicago's ever had

Posted By on 11.26.18 at 06:00 AM

Tony Adler in his office at the old Reader building at 11 E. Illinois. - KATHY RICHLAND
  • Kathy Richland
  • Tony Adler in his office at the old Reader building at 11 E. Illinois.

Tony Adler stepped down as the Reader's senior theater critic last month. He was an institution, having spent the better part of his career here, and his exit leaves behind a gap that the cultural community at large will have a hard time restoring. He joins Peter Margasak and J.R. Jones on the list of longtime arts writers at the paper to have left recently.

In 2006, Adler became the Reader's arts editor. He wore a lot of hats over the years—not just the dapper fedoras, straw hats, and homburgs he was always seen with at openings, but also as assignments editor and an occasional correspondent on poetry and gallery openings. His writing was a model for everybody who worked under him at the paper; to all serious or casual playgoers in town, who either happened to flip to his page or read him each week with dedication, his reviews' hardscrabble eloquence consistently put this mysterious, sweaty, unique thing called Chicago theater in perspective. He had standards, not favorites, and it was impossible to bait him. Week in and week out, he was always willing to be surprised.

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Monday, November 5, 2018

Who's that speaking for the Sun-Times this time?

Posted By on 11.05.18 at 06:00 AM

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When this fall the Tribune endorsed Governor Rauner for reelection, it was being true to itself. It's a Republican paper. Over the years, as the Trib endorsed Republicans I had no intention of voting for (and a few I did), I came to understand how it saw its duty: it would make the best case it could make for the GOP candidate for high office—a case usually better than the candidate made for him—or herself—and readers could take it or leave it. 

Readers (and more nonreaders) would mutter Godalmighty! at some of these endorsements. I used to be one of them, but I stopped. The Tribune knew what it was. I did join in the general ridicule two years ago when the Trib—unwilling to endorse Hillary Clinton for president and unable to endorse Donald Trump—put its editorial page behind Gary Johnson, the Libertarian. But that was the Tribune being true to itself in its fashion.

Today we consider the alternative. The editorial page of the Thursday Sun-Times observed that this time around "we endorsed all Democrats in 12 Chicago-area races for Congress. We can't remember the last time we've done that."

Just two years ago, the editorial page went on, "we endorsed [Randy] Hultgren in the 14th District . . . and we might have endorsed [Peter] Roskam in the 6th . . . had he bothered to fill out our questionnaire.

"But things have changed. Roskam and Hultgren have lost their way."

Here's what else has changed. Two years ago the Chicago Federation of Labor wasn't an owner of the newspaper. That era began 16 months ago.

It doesn't really matter what the Sun-Times remembers about its past. It isn't the Sun-Times of 2000, which endorsed George W. Bush for president and, when Al Gore appealed the count in Florida, ran an editorial that began "Desperation does not make a pretty picture" alongside a Mark Steyn op-ed headlined "Following Gore over the cliff: Democratic troops make clear their intention to stick with their fearless leader, no matter how big a fool he makes of himself" and a George Will op-ed headlined "Gore's weak case coming apart at the seams: Democrats' arguments so thin that together they still add up to nothing."

That was the Sun-Times of Conrad Black and David Radler, a Tory and a cynic, neither a friend of labor, and both—beg pardon for the digression—on their way to prison. Nor is today's Sun-Times the Sun-Times of the earlier Rupert Murdoch nor the later Michael Ferro. And it's not the Sun-Times of Marshall Field V, the young Mr. Old Money who benignly presided over the paper's golden age in the 60s and 70s.

When the Sun-Times invokes its history it's not invoking much of anything. 

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Monday, October 22, 2018

‘Tackling Taboos’: A conversation on redefining our own truths

Posted By on 10.22.18 at 03:38 PM

Yvonne Orji and Luvvie Ajayi - VANESSA BUENGER
  • Vanessa Buenger
  • Yvonne Orji and Luvvie Ajayi


"I honestly feel like telling the truth has become taboo," said author and digital strategist Luvvie Ajayi to an audience at the Chicago Ideas Week event "Tackling Taboos." The night was broken up into three conversations, a performance, and a talk and addressed conventionally taboo subjects including porn, sex, and religion. This allowed audience members—specifically, the high school students who are part of the Chicago Ideas Youth Ambassadors program—to walk away with a new understanding of why it's important to talk about difficult issues transparently.

The first conversation was between Ajayi and Yvonne Orji, a Nigerian-American comedian and actress who currently stars as Molly on HBO's Insecure. She talked about the shift in career plans that occurred when she put her faith in God, or "Daddy," as she calls him. "I don't have daddy issues, don't worry," she joked. When she devoted herself to religion, she dropped her plans of becoming a doctor and took up comedy. This led her down a path of success she didn't know she could have because of the confined lifestyle she'd had growing up in an African household.

When living with African parents, "dreaming is a luxury," Orji said. "Living with Mexican parents too," said one of the teenage girls sitting in front of me. Though Orji had followed her parents' plans up until graduate school, she was able to tackle the taboo of pursuing her own dreams and following her own plans.

Orji also talked about therapy and mental health stigmas within black communities. She and Ajayi joked that their parents would be so much happier if they went to therapy and let go of all the pain and grudges they've held on to for the last 40 years. "Our generation is making it more healthy to seek help," said Orji.

Journalist Emily Witt took the stage next and gave a talk about the contemporary pursuit of sexual pleasure and connection, including topics like porn, orgasmic meditation, webcam sex, and polyamorous couples who schedule sex.

"Our own taboo limits us," she said in regard to how we restrict ourselves from exploring different sexual experiences." What a wonderful thing for teenage girls to learn so early on in their lives, I thought.

Following Witt's talk, comedian Becca Brown sang a song about the lies women tell to get rid of the unwanted attention of certain men, specifically tackling the taboo of periods. "Your fake period got rid of that jerk," she sang. "'Cause you're disgusting and useless when your pussy don't work."

The second conversation of the night was with Michael Arceneaux, author of I Can't Date Jesus: Love, Sex, Family, Race and Other Reasons I've Put My Faith in Beyonce. He spoke about the taboo of being gay in a southern, black, Christian family.

"I think religion is very beautiful and very helpful in people's lives, but at the same time, religion tortured me," he said. He thinks the transparency in his book helped tell other people's stories and solidified him as "the Cardi B of lit."

The final conversation featured fashion designer Norma Kamali, whose recent work raises awareness about the unique experiences women face regarding objectification. She said because of how widely accepted harassment and assault were in the fashion industry, she never realized how bad the things she and other models or designers had experienced were. She encouraged everyone to keep talking about assault so it doesn't continue being normalized.

Overall, the event was fun. It opened my eyes to the way my different identities have caused me to view certain truths as taboo and to hope for a future where these truths can be commonplace.

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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

Jeremy Scahill - KHOLOOD EID FOR THE INTERCEPT
  • 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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