Media watchdog Steve Rhodes suspends Beachwood Reporter

Steve Rhodes (Photo: Chicago Newsroom)

There’s one less watchdog keeping an eye on Chicago media these days.

Veteran journalist Steve Rhodes is stepping back after 15 years as media critic for The Beachwood Reporter, the independent website he founded and nurtured as editor and publisher.

“The site is officially suspended in animation until further notice,” Rhodes announced Friday, preferring to call his move a “hiatus” rather than a permanent shutdown.

“For now I’m going to spend my time paying bills, cleaning up my taxes, ginning up some outside projects, tweeting, and trying to avoid getting COVID,” he wrote. “I still haven’t even finished unpacking from my move last March. Though I still haven’t finished unpacking from any move I’ve made since college. But still. So, see you on the other side of whatever this is.”

Rhodes, 55, a Minneapolis native, worked as a reporting resident for the Chicago Tribune, correspondent for Newsweek and senior editor for Chicago magazine (where he wrote a weekly media column) before launching The Beachwood Reporter as a webzine in 2006. It was named for the Wicker Park dive bar he and his friends frequented.

The Beachwood Reporter

The centerpiece of what he described as his “Chicago-centric news and culture review” site has always been “The Papers,” Rhodes’s meticulously researched daily mix of media criticism, political/news commentary and take-no-prisoners attitude.

Acknowledging “some element of burnout,” Rhodes told me Monday: “I haven’t really been going at it hard for a while. So I finally decided there are a bunch of other things that I would like to do. I just need to focus on other projects and other things, whether they work out or not, that aren’t going get done if I feel this constant pressure that I put on myself to get up the bare minimum of something every day — or close to every day.”

The site and its archive will remain accessible, and Rhodes will continue to host content from volunteer contributors Roger Wallenstein, Tom Chambers and David Rutter. He’ll also continue to produce his own weekly sports podcast for the site.

But those looking for his caustic takedowns on Chicago’s media establishment will have only his Twitter feed for now. “I love Twitter, but I’m not going to put the time in to do the research,” he said. “That’s just where you make a snarky comment.”

Despite the swan song, Rhodes isn’t ruling out a comeback.

“I guess I’m not ready to completely say that’s it. It might be it, but I just don’t know for sure because you just never really know what happens. You never know who you meet or come across. Who knows?”

Monday’s comment of the day: Rick DiMaio: As a weather forecaster for United Airlines, I called Jim Tilmon at his Channel 5 office and asked him if he wanted to view a volcanic ash avoidance study we used in our fight operations office. Our phone call lasted almost 10 minutes and ended with him inviting me to the studio. A few years later, he cold-called me at home and asked me if I wanted to audition for the weekend job at WFLD. How could I turn down that offer? With his mentoring and much practice, things worked out pretty well. I got to know him and Harry Volkman on a very personal level. Without a doubt, two of the nicest people you will ever meet! They are now both peering down from atop of the cirrus and cumulonimbus clouds . . .