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Thursday, July 19, 2018

Chance the Rapper owns Chicagoist—now what?

Posted By on 07.19.18 at 01:11 PM

Honestly, if you live here, you should know who this is by now. - JACK PLUNKETT / AP
  • Jack Plunkett / AP
  • Honestly, if you live here, you should know who this is by now.

A young black Chicago philanthropist has purchased a dormant local news site. But because that philanthropist is Chance the Rapper, and because he made the announcement in "I Might Need Security" (the best of the four new songs he dropped last night), the good news comes with an asterisk. What good news doesn't?

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Friday, July 13, 2018

iLLANOiZE Let's Get Social music showcase gives a platform to Chicago's rising hip-hop stars

Posted By on 07.13.18 at 03:33 PM

The upcoming Let's Get Social showcase will feature some of Chicago music's rising stars. - COURTESY ILLANOIZE
  • Courtesy iLLANOiZE
  • The upcoming Let's Get Social showcase will feature some of Chicago music's rising stars.

Chicago based hip-hop media company iLLANOiZE is hosting the third installment of its Let's Get Social event series, a music showcase featuring rising hip-hop and R&B artists from across Chicagoland. The Let's Get Social series is the brainchild of hip-hop artist Bekoe, the founder of iLLANOiZE. Bekoe launched iLLANOiZE in 2012 with the clothing line iLLANOiZE Apparel, a brand inspired by the meteoric rise of the Chicago hip-hop scene.

"During that time Chicago was the center of hip-hop culture," says Bekoe. "Even so, there still was a lot of really good artists being overlooked."

That’s where iLLANOiZE came in. Bekoe expanded iLLANOiZE into a digital media company, conducting interviews and providing release news that covered artists from around the city. Alongside cohosts Pretty Riot and Illinois Jones, he now broadcasts on iLLANOiZE Radio, a channel dedicated to the promotion of the artists that he’s been championing. For Bekoe, the only thing that matters is the music.

"I understood that as an artist myself," Bekoe continues. "There was so much politics that went into who was on the radio and who wasn't; who got to book venues, and who didn’t; who got to play shows and who didn’t."

It was with this in mind that Bekoe began the Let's Get Social music showcase. He uses the social media engagement of the Chicago hip-hop audience to determine the lineup for each event. The iLLANOiZE Radio team takes into account how often and how effectively each artist communicates with his or her fan base, then they share their music via iLLANOiZE social media pages and gauge the response from their own audience. "Social media can sometimes be superficial but it can also show you who’s putting in the [groundwork] to get themselves heard," says Bekoe. Ultimately, though, it is the quality of the music that trumps all. That distinction was especially important to Law tha Dragon who, along with Mika Luciano, is slated to perform at the showcase as The Wonder Twins.

The Wonder Twins, Mika Luciano (left) and Law Tha Dragon - COURTESY LAW THA DRAGON
  • Courtesy Law Tha Dragon
  • The Wonder Twins, Mika Luciano (left) and Law Tha Dragon

"We see it all the time, where these mainstream media outlets and venues will pay more attention to the image artists maintain, rather than the music," Law says. "Mika and I stand out for [plenty of] reasons but the most important thing to us is that we can both rap."

But social media plays an important role in propelling an artist's career. For R&B artist LaJé, who is currently preparing for the release of her upcoming mixtape and pushing her single "Lemonade," mastering the use of social media has become a career skill in and of itself.

"I basically had to teach myself how to use it to my advantage," she says. "Using things like Twitter analytics, I'm able to determine the peak times to make posts in order to maximize engagements, and what types of posts are getting the most acknowledgement."

Through giving artists the platform of iLLANOiZE radio and their various showcases, Bekoe wants to see the Chicago hip-hop scene become even more fruitful than it was when he started his company. The artists appreciate his work.

East Rogers Park rapper OG Stevo is also slated to perform at Let's Get Social - COURTESY OG STEVO
  • Courtesy OG Stevo
  • East Rogers Park rapper OG Stevo is also slated to perform at Let's Get Social

"I want everything we're doing in the music business send the message that this is possible to do, even while we're young," says 18-year-old producer turned rapper Rick Stevenson. "People like Bekoe giving us this platform is necessary in being able to do that."

Stevenson is also scheduled to perform at the upcoming showcase and was recently featured as a guest on iLLANOiZE Radio discussing his art.

Bekoe has made it a point to stress the uniqueness of his angle in hip-hop media to the artists that he hopes to share his platform with.

"I want them to know that, as an artist, I've been in their shoes. I still am."

iLLANOiZE presents Let’s Get Social showcase Sat 7/14, 8-11 PM, AMFM art gallery, 2151 W. 21st, 312-971-7502, $15 at the door.

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Thursday, July 12, 2018

Profiles abuse scandal inspires new magazine examining Chicago theater

Posted By on 07.12.18 at 01:00 PM

  • courtesy Almanya Narula
  • Almanya Narula

When Almanya Narula enrolled in graduate school at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, she wanted to find a way to bring her passions for journalism and theater together to tell stories of the theater community. The fusion of her interests led her to create Chicago Theatre Now, a new biannual magazine that will discuss and explore issues of accountability, inclusion, diversity, and equity within the Chicago theater scene.

Narula traces the creation of Chicago Theatre Now back to the summer of 2016 when the Reader published an article about abuses occurring at the now-defunct Profiles Theatre. The story hit home for Narula who was then a theater student at Columbia College Chicago studying fight choreography. "Being a fight choreographer, being a person in the industry, that was very triggering for me," she says. "It was also triggering because some of the people who were a part of Profiles were faculty members at Columbia College Chicago. What was going on within Profiles was an open secret for years, yet they were allowed to come to my institution and recruit people who might be under the age of 18 to intern for them."

Shortly afterward, Narula applied to arts journalism graduate program at SAIC. "Within my theater art, my main goal was to make a difference," she says. "At that point, I didn't think my art was conveying that, but I wanted to highlight the good things that were going on in Chicago, and I wanted to document that within journalism."

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Friday, June 29, 2018

Sy Hersh on his rough-and-tumble Chicago past: ‘At some point I realized I was in a tyranny’

Posted By on 06.29.18 at 06:00 AM

Seymour Hersh was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for international reporting in 1970. - BOB DAUGHERTY/ASSOCIATED PRESS
  • Bob Daugherty/Associated Press
  • Seymour Hersh was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for international reporting in 1970.

If Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Seymour "Sy" Hersh is the closest thing that print journalism has to a superhero, then his origin story can be found in the first few pages of his new memoir, the aptly titled Reporter.

In 1959—a full decade before he broke the story of the cover-up of the My Lai massacre in Vietnam—the 22-year-old south-side native was a shoe-leather journalist pounding the Chicago pavement for the famed City News Bureau.

Hersh describes one night on the job when he sped to the scene of a fire not far from his father's cleaning store on the southwest side. There he discovered that an entire family, five people in all, lay dead among the burning embers of the shabby wood-frame house—possibly due to a murder-suicide. What a story, Hersh thought. But before he could file it, an editor butted in to ask if the victims were "of the Negro persuasion." When Hersh replied that the deceased family was black, his boss said to "cheap it out," which meant relegating the story to a single line in the next day's newspaper: "Five Negroes Died in a Fire on the Southwest Side."

"That was shocking to me," Hersh writes.

During another late shift, he overheard two cops discussing a robbery suspect who'd just been shot and killed, reportedly while trying to avoid arrest. One police officer, Hersh recalls, said something like, "So the guy tried to run on you?" The second cop replied, "Naw, I told the [N-word] to beat it and then I plugged him." Hersh later obtained a coroner's report and found that the suspect had been shot in the back, but when he wanted to write up what looked like a murder committed by Chicago police, his editor again told him no, there was no story. Hersh didn't push the issue any further, and the matter died there. It left him feeling "full of despair at my weakness and the weakness of a profession that dealt so easily with compromise and self-censorship," he writes.

Hersh learned a hard lesson by the end of his seven-month stint in his first journalism job: black lives on the south side didn't seem to matter as much as white lives on the north side. More broadly, he learned that those in power regularly prey on the powerless, and that the profession he was "smitten" with—journalism—often lets them get away with it.

"At some point I realized that I was in a tyranny," Hersh says.

Hersh, now 81, has spent much of the last six decades of his career as America's preeminent investigative journalist, doggedly exposing abuses of all kinds of power. He's shined a much-needed light on the excesses of the U.S. military (from My Lai to the torture of Iraqis at Abu Ghraib in 2003); the deep state and intelligence community (such as the CIA's illegal surveillance of citizens); high-ranking government officials (he was especially a thorn in the side of Richard Nixon, Henry Kissinger, and Dick Cheney); and massive corporations (e.g., his 2001 New Yorker story on Mobil Oil's role in the corrupt world of oil acquisitions).

It hasn't always been easy. Hersh's combative style and take-it-or-leave-it philosophy with editors and others have meant a lot of burned bridges, and they're why he's jumped around to so many publications over his long career. In a review of Reporter, the New York Times (one of his former employers) labels Hersh a "lone wolf" for his tendency to hunt alone for the kind of difficult stories that helped take down presidents and change the public's attitudes toward wars—no matter which political party is in charge.

In an interview, Hersh expanded on the metaphor, explaining that he's a hunter and most people in the journalism world—or otherwise—are meat eaters. "The meat eaters are the guys who receive what the hunters get, but they don't quite understand the hunters. They don't really like them," he says. "I'm always going to have trouble as a meat eater. I'm always going to be the guy throwing dead red full of life on an editor's desk."

The Reader spoke with Hersh about his early life and career in Chicago and how it shaped him, the sad state of modern media, and, yes, Trump.

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Friday, June 15, 2018

Chicago Crusader publisher Dorothy Leavell to lead the Reader

Posted By on 06.15.18 at 01:12 PM

Dorothy Leavell at the Rainbow Coalition's Women's Leadership Luncheon on Friday - JAMES FOSTER/FOR THE SUN-TIMES
  • James Foster/For the Sun-Times
  • Dorothy Leavell at the Rainbow Coalition's Women's Leadership Luncheon on Friday

The Reader is being sold to a group led by Chicago Crusader publisher Dorothy Leavell.

Sun-Times CEO Edwin Eisendrath announced the sale Friday afternoon at the Rainbow PUSH Convention in Chicago. The Sun-Times has owned the Reader since 2012.

"I'm here to say that the future of the Reader is in African-American ownership," he said at the Hyatt Regency Chicago. "You're about to have a major publication in Chicago that is African-American owned."

Leavell told the crowd: "I am so honored to have had an opportunity to stand here to say to you that not only am I the publisher of the Chicago Crusader and the Gary Crusader but now the Chicago Reader."

She vowed to continue the Reader's tradition of investigative reporting and cultural coverage and to expand it throughout the city.

The announcement got a standing ovation at the convention.

For 50 years, Leavell has published the Chicago Crusader and Gary Crusader, which cover African-American communities throughout the area. Leavell is also the president of the National Newspaper Publishers Association, a black press trade association with 200 member newspapers. She was inducted into the National Association of Black Journalists Hall of Fame in 2015.

"The Reader is a beloved Chicago institution with an important history of investigative journalism and cultural reporting," she said in a written statement. "Our goal as new ownership is to preserve and strengthen this brand and to make the paper accessible to all Chicago communities."

The Reader, which has been publishing since 1971, has a circulation of 85,000.

"We love the Reader and have worked hard to be sure it has a foundation for the future. All of us at the Sun-Times are thrilled that the Reader's future is in such good hands," Eisendrath said in the statement.

Dave Roeder, organizer at the Chicago News Guild, welcomed the news.

"On behalf of its members at the Chicago Reader, the Chicago News Guild is pleased with the planned sale of the publication. The Reader covers arts, culture, politics and civic issues like no one else. We look forward to helping the new owners broaden the audience for its excellent work. We also thank Edwin Eisendrath and his investors, including organized labor, for having preserved the Reader's independent voice."

The Sun-Times will maintain a 15 percent stake in the newspaper. The deal is expected to close in the next 30 days.

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Friday, June 8, 2018

Anne Ford, the Reader’s Studs Terkel, reveals her secrets: ‘It’s all being curious’

Posted By on 06.08.18 at 09:03 AM

Chicagoans is a first-person account from off the beaten track, as told to Anne Ford. This week's Chicagoan is . . . Anne Ford, who after 190 columns is bidding the project farewell.
"In desperation, I thought, what if I edited all together [these] wonderful quotes, would my editor be interested in a Studs Terkel approach?" - TOM MICHAS; SOPHIA PORTER: HAIR AND MAKEUP
  • Tom Michas; Sophia Porter: hair and makeup
  • "In desperation, I thought, what if I edited all together [these] wonderful quotes, would my editor be interested in a Studs Terkel approach?"

I was going to write a profile of this guy whose name I can't remember who was and possibly still is a private tutor. He was a very colorful guy. For some reason, I got really stuck. He was a great talker. But I couldn't get myself to write this profile. In desperation, I thought, what if I edited all together his wonderful quotes, would my editor be interested in a Studs Terkel approach? From there, I floated the idea of it being a regular thing.

Sometimes I think of a person I've always wanted to talk to. Then I cold-call them. I run into people at parties and they happen to mention what they do. And I go, rrrooww. Like the firefighter. I was sitting next to him at a dinner party. I started asking very dumb questions, like do you slide down a pole? He said, no, that is a good way for people to fall through and hurt themselves.

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Monday, June 4, 2018

Truth, belief, and The Americans

Posted By on 06.04.18 at 06:00 AM

Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell in The Americans
  • Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell in The Americans

When The Americans—which I came to think of as possibly the best TV show I'd ever watched—came to its conclusion last week, I looked back at what I'd written in 2013 when it was new and, in my view, pretty silly.

Real spies in deep cover couldn't gallivant around town in funny wigs sleeping with their sources and butchering their enemies but making it home in time for dinner and survive for even six weeks, I was thinking—yet Philip and Elizabeth Jennings had been at it for decades. Predicting more "misunderstandings, reversals, and high jinks" in season two, I allowed that "I can't describe this plot without my imagination hearing boudoir doors slam open and shut as dissipated nobles shove nubile maids under beds."

But over time the show—set in the 1980s—grew up and my wife and I, thank God, never stopped watching it. Car chases wear out their welcome, but the show runners understood that the drama of trying to hold a marriage and a family together never gets tiresome. And they understood that the ending to The Americans we required was one that focused on the fate of the family. We all know what happened to the cold war; but Philip and Elizabeth Jennings and the two fine kids they'd raised had me lying in bed dreaming up likely scenarios.

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Monday, May 21, 2018

A note from the harsh macho underground

Posted By on 05.21.18 at 06:00 AM

Weasel Walter in 1998 - ROBERT A. DAVIS
  • Robert A. Davis
  • Weasel Walter in 1998

Reader's archive is vast and varied, going back to 1971. Every day in Archive Dive, we'll dig through and bring up some finds.

There was a time when Reader readers engaged with reporters and editors by sitting down and writing letters to the editor and mailing them in to the newspaper. People had a lot more spare time in those days. Or maybe it's that they used the time they put into social media now into writing letters to the editor.

Anyway, we got some interesting letters. It's already been noted that Studs Terkel was a frequent correspondent and that letter writers teamed up to write what turned out to be a fascinating feature story about how the psychologist Bruno Bettelheim tortured his young patients. But there are plenty of others that are directly representative of the time at which they were written. I noticed this one a couple of weeks ago when I was writing about the response to Liz Phair's Exile in Guyville when it first came out 25 years ago. I was drawn to it by the byline, which was Weasel Walter, who Peter Margasak later called "a splinter lodged beneath the fingernail of a generally peaceable and cooperative Chicago music scene for more than a decade." It was dated February 10, 1994, and it was addressed to Reader music critic Bill Wyman. It began:

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Monday, May 14, 2018

Lisagor and more, or some stories that other Chicago media types also thought were great

Posted By on 05.14.18 at 06:00 AM

The original Lisagor, Chicago Daily News correspondent Peter, whose mug now adorns those plaques - CHICAGO SUN-TIMES PRINT COLLECTION
  • Chicago Sun-Times print collection
  • The original Lisagor, Chicago Daily News correspondent Peter, whose mug now adorns those plaques

Reader's archive is vast and varied, going back to 1971. Every day in Archive Dive, we'll dig through and bring up some finds.

Devoted Reader readers (aka our moms) may have noticed that we took home a few plaques from the annual Chicago Headline Club Lisagor awards last Friday night. (Our moms got a more detailed blow-by-blow account yesterday.) The Lisagors are, like just about every other industry award, one of those things that are of some interest to a very small group of people and of zero interest at all to just about anybody else.

However, the Lisagors do give us an excuse to revisit some past stories that were celebrated by the Chicago journalism community:

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Saturday, May 12, 2018

Reader wins five awards from the Chicago Headline Club

Posted By on 05.12.18 at 01:16 PM

The Chicago Reader won five prizes at the 41st annual Peter Lisagor Awards Friday night. The contest is presented by the Chicago Headline Club.

The paper won all five categories for which it was a finalist: in-depth reporting; feature reporting; education reporting; photography; and arts reporting and criticism.

Here are the winning journalists and their work:

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