Windy City Times founder Tracy Baim named publisher of Chicago Reader

Chicago Reader

Tracy Baim, a trailblazing Chicago journalist and the longtime publisher and executive editor of Windy City Times, has been named publisher of the Chicago Reader.

Dorothy Leavell, who heads the leadership team buying the alternative weekly from the parent company of the Sun-Times, announced Baim’s hiring Thursday. Leavell will serve as chairman of the board of directors of the Reader.

Tracy Baim

Baim will be stepping away from day-to-day responsibilities at Windy City Times, the LGBTQ weekly she co-founded in 1985. While Baim will hold the title of president of Windy City Media Group, assistant publisher Terri Klinsky will move up to publisher, and managing editor Andrew Davis will move up to executive editor of the newspaper and website.

“This is a very exciting challenge and opportunity,” Baim said of her new role. “The Reader is an iconic media company and is a critical voice in Chicago. I look forward to continuing its tradition and expanding its reach.”

Baim, a Chicago native and author of 12 books, is a former managing editor of Gay Life Newspaper and executive director of Chicago Gay History Project. She recently was inducted in the Chicago Women’s Journalism Hall of Fame by the Association for Women Journalists Chicago. She’s also in the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association Hall of Fame and the Chicago Gay and Lesbian Hall of Fame.

The agreement to sell the Reader was announced in June, but the transaction was delayed by what Sun-Times CEO Edwin Eisendrath identified as staffing issues. “We are somewhat understaffed in finance and did not produce docs as quickly as we had anticipated,” he said in August. The Reader investment group is headed by real estate developer Elzie Higginbottom and attorney Leonard Goodman, both part of the investment group that helped Eisendrath and the Chicago Federation of Labor acquire the Sun-Times and the Reader in 2017.

“The Chicago Sun-Times worked hard to save the Chicago Reader these past 14 months,” Eisendrath said in a statement. “This deal is good for the Reader, good for the Sun-Times, and good for Chicago. It took some time to get right, as it became clear that more resources, including staffing, were needed to shore up the Reader for its next phase. All of us at the Sun-Times are proud to turn the Reader over to this remarkable group of people who will make sure this independent voice is not lost.”

Dorothy Leavell

Leavell, who will continue as publisher of the Chicago Crusader and the Gary Crusader, two African-American publications, will oversee the Reader’s new parent company along with treasurer Eileen Rhodes, president of East Lake Management Group, and secretary Jessica Stites, executive editor of In These Times magazine.

“I am very happy to be part of the team saving this important media institution,” Leavell said in a statement. “There is a great opportunity here to expand the Reader coverage throughout the city and near suburbs of Chicago.”

Offices of the Reader are expected to move from the Sun-Times at 30 North Racine Avenue to the Bronzeville neighborhood on the South Side after the sale is finalized.

Claiming a circulation of 85,000, the free weekly has been losing money for years. Staff reductions and budget cuts led editorial employees to vote unanimously to join the Chicago News Guild in 2015. After nearly two years of negotiations, a strike threat and a change of ownership, staffers ratified their first union contract in 2017.