The Reader—a timeline of excellence and turmoil

May 2012

Wrapports LLC, a private group of investors, purchases the Reader from Atalaya Capital Management for slightly less than $3 million. Wrapports is the brainchild of Michael Ferro Jr., chairman and CEO of private equity firm Merrick Ventures. Serving on its board are John Canning Jr., chairman of the Chicago News Cooperative, and Bruce Sagan, publisher of the Hyde Park Herald. Other wealthy business leaders funding Wrapports include Joe Mansueto, Michael Sacks, Rocky Wirtz, and Bruce Rauner.

Wrapports has recently purchased Sun-Times Media—which includes the Chicago Sun-Times and 38 suburban newspapers—and named Jim Kirk, formerly of the Chicago News Cooperative and Crain’s Chicago Business, as editor in chief.

As a condition of employment, Wrapports mandates that Reader staffers declare themselves to be at-will employees. The company offers no severance or matching benefits for retirement.

At time of purchase, the Reader has 47 full- and part-time employees, and issues run 72 to 80 pages.

http://www.chicagoreader.com/Bleader/archives/2012/05/23/wrapports-buys-the-reader

http://www.chicagoreader.com/Bleader/archives/2011/12/22/sun-times-media-has-new-owners-and-a-new-step-brother-the-cnc

 

June 2012

At the annual Altweekly Awards, presented by the Association of Alternative Newsmedia, the Reader is honored for arts criticism (J.R. Jones), feature story (Steve Bogira), food writing (Mike Sula), investigative reporting (Ben Joravsky, Mick Dumke), and special section (the staff-written 40th anniversary issue).

http://www.altweeklies.com/aan/2012-altweekly-awards-winners-are-announced/Article?oid=6278007

 

August 2012

The Reader vacates its longtime office space at 11 E. Illinois, which included ten editorial offices, and moves into the Sun-Times Media suite at 350 N. Orleans, where it has five editorial offices and an open-seating plan for the remaining employees. As part of the move, three employees involved in operations leave the Reader.

 

October 2012

Mary Jo Madden, general manager of the Reader and a 35-year veteran, leaves the paper, and her position is eliminated. Her employees in advertising and operations will now report to three different Sun-Times executives, and the Reader’s printing and distribution will be overseen by the Sun-Times.

The Reader’s marketing director leaves, and her position is eliminated. A marketing and sales assistant assumes her duties.

http://www.chicagoreader.com/Bleader/archives/2012/10/09/the-readers-general-manager-is-let-go

Steve Bogira’s “Divergent Paths to College” traces the high school careers of two young women from opposite sides of the tracks: Hayley Himmelman of New Trier High and Jasmeen Wellere of Hirsch Metropolitan High.

http://www.chicagoreader.com/chicago/cook-county-schools-racial-diversity-and-segregation/Content?oid=7669705

January 2013

The Reader publishes its first 56-page issue. Excluding “special” issues (Best of Chicago, Fall Arts, et cetera), page counts in the coming year will range from 56 to 96, averaging 77 pages.

 

March 2013

The Chicago Headline Club honors the Reader in its annual Lisagor Awards with nominations for feature writing, in-depth reporting, nondeadline reporting, blog post, and news column or commentary.

 

April 2013

Two longtime classified-ad and display-ad representatives leave, and their positions are eliminated.

Media outlets report that Bruce Rauner, who is running for governor, has sold his 10 percent stake in Wrapports to Michael Ferro Jr.

 

May 2013

Senior writer Mike Sula wins a James Beard award for his 2012 Reader story “Chicken of the Trees.”

The Reader hires a business development specialist.

The Sun-Times replaces its old Weekend section with the new Agenda insert, combining its own arts coverage with copy reprinted from the Reader. Senior writer Michael Miner reports that the new owners “have let us know that the Reader is a rare paper of theirs that turns a profit.” Subsequently the Sun-Times will repaint its street boxes with the Reader’s familiar black-and-gold color scheme.

http://www.chicagoreader.com/Bleader/archives/2013/05/07/coming-soon-to-the-sun-timesthe-reader

 

June 2013

A planning strategist for the Reader’s “Real Deal” promotion leaves the paper, and her position is eliminated.

 

July 2013

At the annual Altweekly Awards, the Reader is honored for beat reporting (Steve Bogira), illustration (Johnny Sampson), and staff-written blog (the Bleader).

http://www.altweeklies.com/aan/2013-aan-awards-winners-announced/Article?oid=7173618

The Reader’s marketing manager leaves and is replaced.

 

September 2013

A sales representative leaves, and her position is eliminated.

 

October 2013

An ad account executive leaves, to be replaced ten weeks later.

 

November 2013

Darryl Holliday and E.N. Rodriguez’s graphic feature “How to Survive a Shooting” tells the story of a mother trying to cope after her 19-year-old daughter is gunned down at the corner of King Drive and 72nd Street.

http://www.chicagoreader.com/chicago/grand-crossing-how-to-survive-shooting/Content?oid=11598405

 

December 2013

Mick Dumke’s “Heroin, LLC” breaks down the economics of the west-side drug trade.

http://www.chicagoreader.com/chicago/heroin-arrests-sales-dealers-west-side-economics/Content?oid=11722393

 

January 2014

The Reader hits a new low in page counts with its first 48-page issue. Excluding special issues, page counts in the coming year will range from 48 to 80, averaging 68 pages.

 

March 2014

The Chicago Headline Club honors the Reader in its annual Lisagor Awards with nominations for in-depth reporting, feature story, education reporting, arts criticism, and news website.

 

July 2014

At the annual Altweekly Awards, the Reader is honored for arts criticism (Tony Adler), food writing (Mike Sula), political column (Ben Joravsky), long-form news story (Mick Dumke), cover design (Paul John Higgins, Mike McQuade), illustration (Jason Wyatt Frederick), innovation (Darryl Holliday, E.N. Rodriguez), and multimedia (the People Issue 2013).

http://www.altweeklies.com/aan/2014-aan-awards-winners-announced/Article?oid=7760318

 

August 2014

Jake Malooley’s “Debauchery Ahoy” provokes controversy with its unvarnished account of the Chicago Scene Boat Party, a bacchanal in the pocket of Lake Michigan known as “the Playpen.”

http://www.chicagoreader.com/chicago/lake-michigan-boat-party-playpen-debauchery-ahoy/Content?oid=14472607

Steve Bogira’s “The Toll of Violence on Children” reveals the long-lasting impact of street killings on the city’s youngest.

http://www.chicagoreader.com/chicago/neighborhoods-poverty-violence-trauma-stress-ptsd-children/Content?oid=14643402

 

October 2014

The Reader loses its veteran senior design coordinator.

Wrapports launches the Sun-Times Network, described by one journalist as “a templatized, national/local, ready-to-go network of 70 news sites and apps that aim to make use of all the au courant digital news business knowledge of the day.” This experiment will later be abandoned.

Wrapports sells six daily and 32 weekly suburban newspapers to Chicago Tribune Media Group for an undisclosed sum. Crain’s Chicago Business reports the Chicago Sun-Times’ average weekly and Sunday print circulation as 140,000 (the Reader’s weekly circulation is 90,000) and its digital circulation as 65,500.

http://www.chicagobusiness.com/article/20141031/NEWS01/141039959/tribune-buys-38-sun-times-suburban-papers

 

January 2015

The Reader editorial staff votes 19-0 to join the Chicago News Guild.

http://www.chicagoreader.com/Bleader/archives/2015/01/16/newspaper-guild-organizes-at-chicago-reader

Mara Shalhoup resigns after four years as editor of the Reader to become editor of LA Weekly. “I recognize that the timing of this announcement is coming on the heels of your decision to unionize,” she writes in a memo to staff. “I had accepted this job prior to last week’s vote but didn’t want to tell you sooner—because I didn’t want my decision to persuade you one way or the other.”

http://www.chicagoreader.com/Bleader/archives/2015/01/19/mara-shalhoup-leaving-the-reader-to-become-editor-of-la-weekly

 

February 2015

A classified advertising representative leaves, and her position is eliminated.

 

March 2015

The Chicago Headline Club honors the Reader in its annual Lisagor Awards with nominations for feature story, education reporting, arts criticism, investigative/public service reporting, and photography.

In “Chicago Police Are Spying on Citizens,” Mick Dumke and Ben Joravsky share the results of their FOIA request for information on “First Amendment-related investigations . . . prompted by or based upon a person’s speech or other expression.”

http://www.chicagoreader.com/chicago/chicago-police-spying-surveillance-first-amendment-protesters-nato/Content?oid=16893815

The Reader loses its advertising director, whose position is eliminated.

 

April 2015

An advertising account executive leaves, and his position is eliminated.

“The Greatest Ever Chicago Book Tournament,” a six-month contest judged by Reader staffers and notable Chicagoans, names Isabel Wilkerson’s The Warmth of Other Suns the best book ever written about the city.

http://www.chicagoreader.com/chicago/greatest-ever-chicago-book-isabel-wilkerson-studs-terkel/Content?oid=17331180

 

May 2015

Film editor J.R. Jones publishes The Lives of Robert Ryan (Wesleyan University Press), which originated as a 2009 Reader story.

 

June 2015

At the first bargaining session between the company and the Reader unit of the Chicago News Guild, the guild submits a set of contract proposals dealing with noneconomic matters, but the company refuses to agree to anything without first seeing the economic package.

 

July 2015

Following six months as acting editor, Jake Malooley is named editor of the Reader. His previous position, managing editor, is eliminated. He and creative director Paul Higgins announce a redesign of the paper that will eliminate the “B Side” arrangement of the music section (it ran upside-down behind a music-themed back cover) and consolidate the paper’s film, theater, and other arts listings into a single three-page spread.

http://www.chicagoreader.com/Bleader/archives/2015/07/16/jake-malooley-named-editor-of-the-reader

At the annual Altweekly Awards, the Reader is honored for food writing (Mike Sula), arts feature (Max Blau), political column (Ben Joravsky), long-form news story (Steve Bogira), special section (Bar Issue 2014), and multimedia (People Issue 2014).

http://www.altweeklies.com/aan/2015-aan-awards-winners-announced/Article?oid=8218132

Two advertising account executives depart, and their positions are eliminated.

 

August 2015

An advertising production manager leaves and is not replaced. An editorial assistant also leaves, and his work compiling the Reader’s event listings is redistributed to existing staff and to freelancers.

The company notifies the guild that it is contemplating laying off one full-time and one part-time employee covered by the Reader unit. At subsequent meetings, the company declines to specify which employees it wants to dismiss. The guild responds with a letter requesting financial documents that will prove the need to eliminate these unnamed employees. The company never responds, and the layoffs are not carried out.

 

September 2015

Senior writer Mick Dumke leaves the Reader, and his position is eliminated. Robin Amer joins the Reader as deputy editor for news; the company will contend that, unlike Dumke, she is ineligible for union membership.

The Reader eliminates another position when its senior marketing manager leaves.

Aimee Levitt’s “Don’t Be a Rapist” profiles student activists who persuaded the University of Chicago to reevaluate its campus rape policy.

http://www.chicagoreader.com/chicago/university-of-chicago-rape-culture-sexual-assault/Content?oid=19237712

 

October 2015

An associate editor leaves and is not replaced. Her social media duties are assigned to a new staffer four months later.

A senior account executive leaves and is not replaced.

Wrapports CEO Tim McKnight resigns, and his position is eliminated. The command structure now consists of Jim Kirk; Paul Pham, senior vice president for business operations; and Tim Landon, CEO of the Sun-Times Network.

http://www.chicagoreader.com/Bleader/archives/2015/10/05/tim-knight-exits-but-wrapports-wont-get-new-ceo

The Reader publishes its first 40-page issue. Excluding special issues, page counts for 2015 will range from 40 to 64, averaging 52 pages.

 

December 2015

Photo editor Andrea Bauer leaves the Reader, and her position is eliminated. Many of her duties will be assumed by Danielle A. Scruggs, who joins the Reader as director of photography in March 2016; the company will contend that, unlike Bauer, she is ineligible for union membership.

Adrienne Hurst’s “Black, Autistic, and Killed by Police” investigates the police killing of an autistic man inside his Calumet City home.

http://www.chicagoreader.com/chicago/stephon-watts-police-shooting-autism-death/Content?oid=20512018

 

January 2016

The Reader unit of the Chicago News Guild submits the economic component of its contract proposal (salary, retirement, jurisdiction, et cetera).

For two years running, the Reader has dropped its last issue of the year. Now it drops an additional issue, billing the subsequent January 21 edition as a “double issue.” Excluding special issues, page counts for 2016 will range from 40 to 52, averaging 46 pages.

Beginning with the year’s first issue, the Reader eliminates its glossy cover, switching to a cheaper paper with a matte finish.

 

February 2016

Michael Ferro, chairman of Wrapports, buys 5.2 million shares of Tribune Publishing stock for $44.4 million. To avoid potential antitrust problems, he soon donates his shares in Wrapports to a California charitable foundation. Following Ferro’s departure, John Canning Jr. becomes chairman of Wrapports and Bruce Sagan is named chairman of Sun-Times Holdings, which now consists of the Sun-Times, the Reader, the society weekly Splash, and the Sun-Times Network.

http://www.chicagoreader.com/Bleader/archives/2016/02/04/michael-ferro-buys-big-piece-of-tribune-goes-silent-at-sun-times

 

March 2016

Yana Kunichoff and Sam Stecklow are honored by the Sidney Hillman Foundation for their story “How Chicago’s ‘Fraternal Order of Propaganda’ Shapes the Story of Fatal Police Shootings.”

http://www.chicagoreader.com/chicago/fraternal-order-of-police-shootings-propaganda-pat-camden/Content?oid=21092544

The Reader’s business manager leaves; her position is eliminated, and the company hires a vice president of new media.

 

April 2016

The Chicago Headline Club honors the Reader in its annual Lisagor Awards with nominations for in-depth reporting, news column, political reporting, and general excellence in print journalism.

After three months, the company responds to the Reader unit’s economic proposal with two counterproposals: no salary increase and a severance package to consist of one day’s pay for every year worked.

Wrapports sells its society paper, Splash, to Tribune Publishing. Wrapports spokesman Glenn Harston says the board “decided it would rather focus on its core newspaper asset, the Chicago Sun-Times, and digital properties.”

http://www.robertfeder.com/2016/04/18/tribune-buys-splash-from-sun-times/

Unionized editorial staffers at the Reader, working with the Chicago News Guild, launch the “Save the Reader” online campaign. Within a week, more than 3,000 readers sign the campaign’s petition to Bruce Sagan of Wrapports LLC.

 

June 2016

Aimee Levitt and Christopher Piatt’s “At Profiles Theatre the Drama—and Abuse—Is Real” exposes allegations of mistreatment at a local cutting-edge theater company. Six days later, Profiles Theatre closes.

http://www.chicagoreader.com/chicago/profiles-theatre-theater-abuse-investigation/Content?oid=22415861

 

July 2016

At the annual Altweekly Awards, the Reader is honored for arts criticism (J.R. Jones), political column (Ben Joravsky), race reporting (Steve Bogira, Mick Dumke), and special section (the Food Issue 2015).

 

August 2016

The Reader hires a vice president of business development.

 

September 2016

Alison Flowers and Sarah Macaraeg are honored by the Sidney Hillman Foundation for their story “I Thought to Be Charged With Murder You Had to Kill Somebody,” examining three cases in which people were charged with murder for deaths caused by police who were pursuing them.

http://www.chicagoreader.com/chicago/felony-murder-police-shooting-investigation/Content?oid=23200575

Contributing writer Derrick Clifton is honored by the National Association of Black Journalists for three Reader columns about the police shooting of Laquan McDonald.

Senior writer Steve Bogira, a four-decade veteran responsible for some of the paper’s best in-depth social justice reporting, leaves the Reader.

http://www.chicagoreader.com/Bleader/archives/2016/09/23/steve-bogira-is-leaving-the-reader

Four years after Wrapports’ purchase of the Reader, staff has diminished from 47 full- or part-time employees (23 editorial, 24 advertising/operations) to 31 (21 editorial, 10 advertising/operations).

 

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