Press Release | Chicago Reader
The Board of Directors of the Reader Institute for Community Journalism (RICJ), publisher of the Chicago Reader, announced that Tracy Baim would step down as president and editor at the end of 2022. Baim was hired in the fall of 2018 to save the legendary Reader newspaper – just two days before it was shut down by its then-owner, the Chicago Sun-Times.
The RICJ Board of Directors will engage a national firm to conduct public research beginning this month.
During his tenure, Baim ushered in a new era for the 51-year-old alternative newspaper, guiding the reader through the COVID-19 pandemic, leading the 50th anniversary and establishing the nonprofit Reader Institute for Community Journalism. . Baim brought both stability and innovation to The Reader, reviving the paper’s tradition of investigative journalism, expanding the diversity and reach of coverage, and forging new partnerships in the Chicago media landscape by helping to found the Chicago Independent. Media Alliance (CIMA).
“Tracy has been an incredible and tireless steward of RICJ and the Reader and a mainstay of local media in general,” said RICJ Board Chair Eileen Rhodes. “In addition to her four decades of media experience, her contributions to Chicago’s LBGTQ community are enormous: When Tracy joined the Reader in 2018, she had co-founded the LGBTQ+ newspaper Windy City Times in 1985, founded several other newspapers communities, authored or co-authored 12 books on LGBTQ+ history, and led or co-led numerous community initiatives, including the 2006 Gay Games and the 2013 Springfield March for Marriage Equality. received numerous accolades and awards for his journalism, political activism, and community service, including the Studs Terkel Award, induction into the Chicago LGBT Hall of Fame, Society of Professional Journalists Chicago Hall of Fame, and the NLGJA: The Association of LGBTQ Journalists Hall of Fame We thank her for her leadership, look forward to her continued support of the reader, and wish her well in his next role.
“After four intense years, the Reader is stronger and bigger than it has been in a decade, and it’s time to hand over the reins to a new CEO and publisher. I will continue to help the reader of all possible ways,” Baim said. “It has been the honor of my life to do this work. I believe the Reader is now strong enough to move into its next phase, with new leadership. The multi-year journey to nonprofit status, including a contest around ownership, has been a lot of work for me, but there’s still a lot to do. As I enter my 38th year in community media, I’m thrilled to get back to writing and improve the journalism ecosystem as a whole.
Among the highlights under the direction of Baim:
- Stabilize and increase the Reader’s annual budget: The Reader was singularly dependent on advertising revenue. Today, more than 35% of funds come from foundations, memberships, donors, events and other new sources of income.
- Reader journalists have won dozens of awards from local and national organizations, including the Society of Professional Journalists, the Chicago Journalists Association and the Association of Alternative Newsmedia.
- The Reader has significantly enhanced its digital presence with a new website and the launch of digital advertising tools and branded content. Digital downloads average 4,500 per issue and the website reaches over a million per month.
- 2018’s 17-reader squad included just one person of color and little other diversity; it’s now 38 people, with 38% people of color, 51% LGBTQ+, 54% identifying as female, 30% as male, 11% non-binary (11% chose not to answer on gender, some overlapping responses).
- The Reader increased its circulation from 50,000 to 60,000 and diversified its nearly 1,200 delivery locations to locations further south, southwest and west.
“As the first woman and first openly gay person to lead this award-winning 51-year-old newspaper as President, I am very excited about what comes next for RICJ and the Reader. The team running the Reader and the RICJ is amazing,” Baim said. “I’m confident that by working together with a new leader, they will take the Reader to even greater heights. Like any good relay runner, I’m ready with a firm hand to pass the baton to the next generation CEO and editor.