Saturday, July 28, 2007

Chicago Reader Management Change, letter to freelancers from Editor

Here's the letter from Alison True (what a great Damon Runyan character name for a journalist), the editor of the Chicago Reader, one of my favorite weekly publications:

Friday, July 27, 2007
Dear staff and valued freelance contributors--

As you all know by now, the Chicago Reader's been sold. There are reasons to be distressed by a change this big, and many of you are understandably upset.

Losing our production department will be a difficult adjustment for everyone who thinks of the people on the fourth floor as friends and family. It's hard to imagine making this paper without them. Others around the building may be laid off as well, and no one will be happy about it. I hope, and I'm sure, the ties we've established at the Reader will extend long beyond our shared employment.

As for the future, this changeover shouldn't be regarded, as one blog commenter put it, as a sad day for the city of Chicago. The paper and Web site that so many Chicagoans depend on isn't going anywhere, and you--house staff, freelance writers, illustrators, photographers--are going to continue to be its lifeblood.

And there are reasons to be optimistic: the new owners say they're going to be pouring energy and resources into the business, enhancing promotion, sales, software, and circulation. A plan to convert to a single section tabloid--to get out from under crippling printing costs--was well under way before any talk of a sale, and we'll be finishing that redesign soon, something I'm actively looking forward to. There's no plan to change our name to match the rest of the chain.

The only talk about editorial from the new owners involves the budget, and that's nothing new. All indications are the new owners don't think the way to turn the company around is by messing with content, and Ben Eason tells me he's not going to butt in. When revenues increase, so does the editorial purse. Nothing wrong with that scenario.

There's been a lot of grumbling about the way absentee owners might affect the product, but my guess is that working for out-of-towners won't be a whole lot different from working for the founders, who, bless their hearts, gave me complete autonomy when I took the helm in 1994. They deserve our reverence for thinking up and developing such a kick-ass paper, but you guys are most responsible for its success.

It's been an honor to work with all of you over the years. Let's keep up the good work.
Alison True
Chicago Reader

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