Robservations: Board stalemate imperils Chicago Reader; Co-publisher Tracy Baim remains hopeful; John Chase returns to Chicago Tribune

Chicago Reader

Robservations on the media beat:

Leonard C. Goodman

A stalemate among board members of the Chicago Reader threatens to derail its move to a nonprofit business model and undermine the editorial independence of the alternative biweekly after more than 50 years. It can all be traced to the singularly bad decision to allow Leonard C. Goodman, a Chicago criminal defense attorney and co-owner of the Reader since 2018, to dabble as an opinion columnist. Goodman’s 21st column, Vaxxing our kids: Why I’m not rushing to get my six-year-old the COVID-19 vaccine, published on November 24, triggered calls for checking his facts — a move Goodman framed as a First Amendment issue and decried as censorship. Although his column still appears online as written, the push-back led Goodman and his allies to demand control of nonprofit Reader Institute for Community Journalism and dump co-publisher Tracy Baim as president and co-treasurer of the newly formed nonprofit. In a statement supporting the ownership transfer, the Chicago News Guild noted the jobs of 34 staffers were at stake. “The delay resulting from these dangerous demands jeopardizes the Reader’s ability to continue operations,” the union said. “The time has come for the board and the owners to free the Reader.” Ally Marotti of Crain’s Chicago Business first reported on the impasse.

Tracy Baim

What happens next? Insiders say the matter could be resolved this week when Goodman meets with co-owner Elzie Higginbottom to mediate the dispute. For Tracy Baim, the legendary journalist caught in the middle, that’s reason for hope: “Our primary concerns right now are the true independence of the nonprofit board, and the editorial independence for our editors,” Baim told me. “I am truly grateful for the support that both Elzie Higginbottom and Leonard C. Goodman have provided in saving the Reader these past three-plus years. We would not be here today without both of them. I am saddened this took a horrible detour just before the sale was to occur, but I am hopeful we can break this impasse soon. They saved the Reader once. I hope they can agree to terms that can save the Reader again.”

John Chase

John Chase, director of investigations at the Better Government Association, is leaving the government watchdog group after five years to rejoin the Chicago Tribune. Starting March 7 he’ll become deputy metro editor, overseeing politics and government. “Please join me in welcoming John back to the team as we prepare for the 2022 mid-terms, a competitive governor’s race and more,” Tribune executive editor Mitch Pugh wrote to staff. Chase previously spent 18 years as a reporter for the Tribune, following stints at the Daily Herald and City News Bureau of Chicago. Along with Jeff Coen he wrote Golden: How Rod Blagojevich Talked Himself out of the Governor’s Office and into Prison.

Rob Cressman

Rob Cressman announced his departure last week after six years as program director of WDRV 97.1-FM, the Hubbard Radio classic rock station. Cressman served as senior vice president of programming for iHeartMedia stations in Indianapolis before joining The Drive in 2016. “Rob will be missed, his contributions to our success are greatly appreciated,” Jeff England, vice president and market manager of Hubbard Radio Chicago, said in a statement. “We are happy for him and wish him nothing but the best in his next chapter.” No word yet on a replacement.

Ryan Maguire

Ryan Maguire, executive producer of the Chicago White Sox Radio Network at ESPN sports/talk WMVP 1000-AM, has been tapped by parent company Good Karma Brands as director of content for WTMJ and WKTI in Milwaukee. Before joining ESPN 1000 in 2020 he programmed stations in Seattle, Miami, Pittsburgh, Kansas City and Milwaukee. Maguire doubled as a columnist and director of news for Barrett Sports Media. “I’m going to miss working with everyone in the Windy City; in particular, Len Kasper, Darrin Jackson, Connor McKnight and our entire team that put White Sox radio broadcasts together this past season,” he told BSM. “I’m happy to call them lifelong friends.”

Abbott Elementary

Sheryl Lee Ralph and Lisa Ann Walter, stars of the hit ABC series “Abbott Elementary,” will headline a virtual event February 22 sponsored by Chicago’s Museum of Broadcast Communications. Hosea Sanders, reporter for ABC-owned WLS-Channel 7, will host a Q&A with the guests, followed by screening of the show’s pilot. It starts at 7 p.m. (Here is the link for tickets.) “What better way to celebrate Black History Month in February and Women’s History Month in March than with this amazingly talented cast of the hottest comedy on television right now?” said Andrea Darlas, programming chairperson for the museum.

Dave Hoekstra

Recommended reading: The February issue of NewCity reveals the fascinating story of a screenplay written in 1974 by Chicago journalism legends and Pulitzer Prize winners Roger Ebert and Mike Royko that was never produced. Titled “The Adventures of a Suburban Guerrilla,” it dramatized the exploits of a suburban biology teacher who became an environmental activist known as The Fox. Dave Hoekstra, the Chicago author, documentary filmmaker and former Sun-Times columnist, uncovers the Ebert/Royko collaboration and recalls his own 50-year interest in The Fox (aka Jim Phillips) in The Fox and Friends: The Enduring Legacy of a Mild-Mannered Biology Teacher by Day, Superhero Eco-Saboteur By Night. (Here is the link.)

David Hochberg

A tip of the hat to mortgage broker David Hochberg, host of “Home Sweet Home Chicago” Saturdays on Nexstar Media news/talk WGN 720-AM. In conjunction with Chicago Alderman Matt O’Shea, Hochberg raised more than $203,000 Saturday during a three-hour Vest-a-Thon fundraiser to buy bullet-proof vests for Chicago police officers. (Here is the link to donate.) Hochberg said the benefit for the Chicago Police Memorial Foundation received “overwhelming support” from the Chicago radio community, with numerous stations donating commercial time to promote the radiothon.

Friday’s comment of the day: Candice Agree: Selling stolen property isn’t always the only motivation for theft. Sometimes it’s all about possession. I’m thinking of Roman Totenberg’s Ames Stradivarius, stolen in 1980 and not recovered until 2015, four years after the death of the violinist who stole it. Not even his widow knew of the violin’s existence until she found it in a trunk. You’re right about the registry, though. The instrument was recognized immediately and reported.