Chicago Reader gets a fresh face at 40
The Chicago Reader has been in business long enough to earn the label of media institution. Recent turbulence, including personnel shake-ups, have led to questions about the future of the Reader. Now the publication is getting another makeover. Mara Shalhoup is the new editor in charge and when it officially launches Thursday, there will be some design changes. She spoke to Eight Forty-Eight to explain what’s ahead for the paper.
"Coming in, I was obviously inheriting what you described as an institution, a legacy," Shalhoup told host Alison Cuddy. Shalhoup emphasized that she wanted to respect the Reader's past while also bringing it firmly into the future. The publication has navigated through much tumult in recet history: Shalhoup is the forth editor at the helm in a year and it has cycled through several publishers. But Shalhoup felt that the work she did during her time at Creative Loafing, a sister publication to the Reader based in Atlanta, was enough to prepare her for the challenge in Chicago.
The new Reader has two covers and it's glossy; a far cry from its current state in newsprint. It's slightly smaller but will have more pages. Shalloup explained that the new logo channels the vintage logo but is "more slick." She said she hopes that these changes will prove that the publication has, "more staying power beyond the week."
As for content, music and the arts have their own pull-out section, harking back to previous iterations of the Reader, called "The B-Side."
"We almost consider it its own sister publication," Shalhoup said.
She described talking to many longtime readers who considered that section "their bible," and that the new Reader hopes to recapture that feeling. Though the print version will feature more long-form pieces, the web version will be slightly different. A new blog called "The Bleader" is being billed as a more playful version of the print publication, creating what Shalloup called, "A collection of voices."
Shalhoup hopes that these changes are a sign that things are looking up for the 40-year-old alternative weekly. They hope to hire more writers and are pleased about the return of staff members like political writer Mick Dumke, who dispatched to the Chicago News Cooperative last year.
"Times were really hard for us and for a lot of media institutions for a while but I feel optimistic about where we're going," Shalhoup said brightly.