Tribune boss Kern to oversee Chicago magazine’s editorial side

Beth Fenner

Beth Fenner

A long-simmering power struggle at Chicago magazine has ended with reduced authority for the publisher and a new chain of command for editorial leadership of the city monthly.

Under the new arrangement, Chicago’s editor-in-chief, Beth Fenner, no longer will report to Richard Gamble, the publisher and general manager who hired her in 2011. Instead, Fenner will report to Gerry Kern, senior vice president and editor of the Chicago Tribune.

Joseph Schiltz, senior vice president of marketing and targeted media for Chicago Tribune Media Group, announced the realignment to the magazine’s staffers last week.

Gamble recruited Fenner from Time Inc. in New York to succeed Richard Babcock, who retired after 20 years as Chicago magazine’s top editor. But Gamble and Fenner clashed almost from the start, according to insiders. One early dispute was over control of the magazine’s digital operations, which Fenner wrested from Gamble in 2012. More recently the two have been at odds over budgets, personnel issues and other matters, sources said.

In addition to initiating top-to-bottom makeovers of Chicago’s print edition and website, Fenner has rejuvenated the magazine with an aggressive editorial approach, including an exhaustive, multipart investigation of Chicago Police Department crime statistics. Her tenure also has coincided with the departures of more than a dozen editors and key staffers.

Gerry Kern

Gerry Kern

Kern did not respond to repeated requests for comment. But a Chicago Tribune spokeswoman said Monday that the change will “not affect the editorial direction or content” of the magazine.

“Chicago magazine and Chicago Tribune have always worked together,” spokeswoman Maggie Wartik said in a statement. “The recent change in reporting structure is a formal way to strengthen this relationship and improve synergy between the two publications. The new reporting relationship will benefit the magazine and its readers by leveraging Gerry Kern’s talent and experience.  It also enables publisher Richard Gamble to focus entirely on revenue generation and client relationships.”

Billed as the nation’s largest city monthly, Chicago was launched by WFMT FM 98.7 in 1970 and has been owned by Tribune Co. since 2002.