CHICAGO (CBS) — The redesigned, magazine-format Chicago Reader is now on newsstands, in the second overhaul of the free alternative news weekly in the past few years.
“I think it’s a little bit easier to read on the train, perhaps,” Reader editor Mara Shalhoup said on the CBS 2 Morning News Thursday. “The glossy cover, I think, gives it a little more excitement, and maybe even a little more longevity, and it also keeps your fingers from getting all inky.”
The new publication also has two covers – an “A” side touting the cover story, and a “B” side on the back touting music coverage. The back cover is literally headlined the “B Side.”
“We expanded or music content quite a bit to give it more exposure on the back cover and to be able to have two covers every week, so people can say, ‘Oh did you see Femi Kuti on the cover, or did you see this woman getting doused by water as sort of a wake-up call?” Shalhoup said.
Kuti, a Nigerian jazz and Afrobeat musician, is featured on the back cover this week. The front-cover illustration of the woman getting doused with water promotes a cover article by Ben Joravsky and the recently-returned Mick Dumke, on Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel and the new City Council.
But the changes aren’t limited to the cover. On its Web site, the Reader says it is introducing a variety of forays into “participatory journalism,” with columns that will feel “more cocktail party than lecture hall.” The new features, titled “You Are Here,” “Culture Vultures,” “In Rotation,” and “Artist on Artist” will capture the conversations of a variety of Chicagoans in the arts and other fields, the Reader says.
The Reader has also done away with column names. Up through last week, media critic Michael Miner, arts columnist Deanna Isaacs, and Joravsky, a political columnist, had columns named “Hot Type,” “The Business” and “The Works,” respectively. Now the columns will just feature their authors’ names.
Also new is a “mega” Arts and Culture section, a “Local Wares” feature on independent artisans and craftspeople, and a new “Mudville” sports column on both pro-sports fandom and recreation leagues.
The two popular syndicated columns – “The Straight Dope” and the Dan Savage sex advice column “Savage Love” – also remain. A third, “News of the Weird” by Chuck Shepherd, disappeared from the paper in recent months.
To promote the redesigned paper, the Reader is planning “pop-up giveaways,” where free bagels or snacks and copies of the Reader will be handed out from food trucks, and women’s roller derby athletes will appear.
This is the second sweeping change in the design of the Reader in recent years.
In 2007, the paper was sold to Tampa, Fla.-based alternative newspaper chain Creative Loafing. Soon afterward, its long-standing format as a multi-section broadsheet was scrapped in favor of the single-section tabloid format that was used until this week. Sometime before that, the paper was cut from four to three sections when the music and the arts and culture sections were combined.
Creative Loafing filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2008, in large part from debt incurred when it spent $40 million to buy the Reader, the Washington City Paper, and “The Straight Dope” column. In 2009, the Atalaya Capital Management fund bought the company and its papers.
The Reader was founded in 1971 by a group of friends from Carleton College – editor and publisher Robert Roth, art director Robert McCamant, advertising director Thomas Yoder, and operations director and treasurer Thomas Rehwaldt. Rehwaldt was fired in 1988 after a falling out with the other partners and ended up suing the company twice – most recently over the plans to sell off the paper in 2007.
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