Chicago Tribune theater critic Chris Jones named editorial page editor

Chris Jones (Photo: Chicago Tonight/WTTW)

After two decades as theater critic of the Chicago Tribune Chris Jones was named editorial page editor Wednesday. But he said he still plans to review “the major shows” for the newspaper.

The unorthodox move, as first reported here, comes amid staff upheaval following the exodus of more than 40 journalists who accepted buyouts from the Tribune’s new owners, New York-based hedge fund Alden Global Capital.

As editorial page editor, Jones succeeds Kristen McQueary, who resigned after she was turned down for a buyout.

In announcing Jones’s appointment, effective July 12, Par Ridder, general manager of Chicago Tribune Media Group, wrote in an internal email: “As Chicago’s pre-eminent culture critic, he has a deep understanding of the city, his home for 30 years, and has built a reputation as frank, fair-minded and scrupulously accurate. Can there be more important attributes for an editorial page editor?

“Chris is committed to upholding the Tribune’s leading citizen status, and its statement of principles, which include the newspaper’s commitment ‘to inform and lead public opinion, to foster commerce and industry, and to furnish that vital check upon government which no constitution can.’”

Jones, 57, joined the Tribune full-time in 2002. A native of Manchester, England, he was educated at University of Hull and The Ohio State University and taught at Northern Illinois University and DePaul University. He also wrote about theater for Variety.

“Today, the Tribune announced me as the new editorial page editor, meaning that I will be in working with a variety of opinion columns and joining an editorial board that is smaller than in the past. But, I hope, mighty in the city,” Jones wrote on Facebook Wednesday.

“I’m still the theater critic, which is important to me and the paper, and I will review the major shows as I have for the past 20 years. It is my hope that other, diverse, freelance voices will also join our theater coverage, going forward. While these are very challenging times at the paper, there remains a strong commitment to the Chicago theater.”

Jennifer Day

In other news at the Tribune, former books editor Jennifer Day, who was among staffers reported to have taken a buyout last week, has been named features editor of Chicago magazine. The newspaper and the monthly magazine are both owned by Alden Global Capital.

In announcing Day’s appointment, new Chicago editor Amy Carr wrote: “Jennifer is a brilliant, creative and meticulous editor who will help us continue the magazine’s long history of rich storytelling and service journalism. She will be an invaluable resource as we look for new ways to explore this great city as it emerges from a year like no other.”

Day, a graduate of Wayne State University, joined the Tribune in 2012 to launch the Printers Row Journal. She previously worked for the Toledo Blade and Detroit Legal News.

Here is the full text of Ridder’s email to staff:

I am pleased to announce that Chris Jones has been named editorial page editor of the Chicago Tribune. For almost two decades, Chris has been covering culture and theater for the Tribune. As Chicago’s pre-eminent culture critic, he has a deep understanding of the city, his home for 30 years, and has built a reputation as frank, fair-minded and scrupulously accurate. Can there be more important attributes for an editorial page editor? 
 
During the pandemic, Chris’ Sunday columns pivoted to urban affairs, politics and, especially, a dedication to the reopening of Chicago and the equitable future economic growth of the city he clearly loves.  
 
A former professor and higher-education administrator before he joined the Tribune, Chris is committed to finding new and diverse voices from a variety of ideological perspectives to have their say in the paper.
 
Chris also brings an innovation mindset and vast entrepreneurial energy to the job. His work in building out Theater Loop as a destination site for fans of Chicago’s arts and entertainment scene went far beyond writing reviews. Chris also dug in deep on and brought insight to questions around engaging audiences, driving subscriptions and developing alternative business models. That inventive thinking will be valuable as the Editorial Board adapts approaches for an evolving digital audience.
 
As editorial page editor, Chris is committed to upholding the Tribune’s leading citizen status, and its statement of principles, which include the newspaper’s commitment “to inform and lead public opinion, to foster commerce and industry, and to furnish that vital check upon government which no constitution can.” He will join Alex Rodriguez and Clarence Page on the Tribune’s Editorial Board.
 
Colleen Kujawa maintains her role as a content editor in the department, now reporting to Chris. Joining the team, on an interim basis for now, will be Jorie Goins as a content editor reporting to Chris. Jorie comes over from Tribune Content Agency, where she has been reporting, writing and editing TCA premium columnists and contributors.
 
Chris’ first day in this new role will be July 12th. In addition, he will continue to cover the major shows in Chicago and on Broadway for the Tribune, writing those reviews under his own trusted name.
 
I want to thank Kristen McQueary for her excellent work, first as an editorial writer and columnist and, for the past 15 months, as editorial page editor.  She will transition with Chris over the next few days. 
 
Par