Apr 19, 2022 - News

Future of the Chicago Reader in jeopardy

Newspaper box
A Reader box in the snow. Photo courtesy of Leni Manaa-Hoppenworth

Chicago Reader staffers have taken the gloves off.

  • This Thursday, they're planning to march to the home of co-owner Leonard Goodman to demand the alt-weekly be allowed to go non-profit.

Why it matters: The 51-year-old alt-weekly is part of Chicago's fabric.

  • Without the potential money infusion non-profit status can bring, it's "weeks away" from a financial crisis, according to management.

Catch up quick: Goodman, a defense attorney, wrote an opinion column for the paper last November headlined, "Why I'm not rushing to get my six-year-old the COVID-19 vaccine."

  • He questioned the motives of "big pharma," as well as the media and medical establishment's disdain for Ivermectin.

The other side: Readers and staffers exploded with anger, characterizing it as a misleading anti-vax column.

  • Co-publisher Tracy Baim ordered a post-publication fact check of the column, which bothered Goodman even though it was never published and his story wasn't taken down.
  • By December, Goodman and his board supporters launched investigations of Baim and demanded new policies on "free speech." Without the new policies in place, they would block the transition to non-profit status.

State of play: Union representatives for the newsroom published an op-ed in the Chicago Tribune laying out their grievances and the final points of contention:

  • Goodman's demand for more seats on the new non-profit board.
  • The demands for new "free speech" policies.

The other side: Goodman published his own piece Wednesday on a site called Scheerpost headlined, "Beware of the Fact-Checkers."

  • The post says the crux of the disagreement is Reader management's refusal to "guarantee space for dissenting views."

Between the lines: We spent all Monday afternoon talking to both sides and concluded that the sticking point is board seats. But they still seem far apart, even disagreeing on how many board seats the theoretical non-profit should have.

  • The bottom line: The financial fallout from a continued stalemate could sink the storied alt-weekly.
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