Jake Malooley has been forced out as editor of the Chicago Reader as new executive editor Mark Konkol moves to put his imprint on the alternative weekly.
Malooley learned his fate by phone at O'Hare Airport when he returned from his honeymoon on a delayed flight Friday morning.
“Jake did a great job leading the Reader, but after assessing the operation here I have decided that we needed a change in leadership to further my vision to better serve our existing readers, and attract new ones online and in print,” Konkol said in a statement. “My goal is to make the Reader relevant everyday online and make the paper a must read for Chicagoans again.”
Konkol was appointed to the newly created position of executive editor last week by Sun-Times Media, parent company of the Reader. He is a Pulitzer Prize-winning former columnist for the Sun-Times and DNAinfo Chicago.
It’s not clear whether Konkol plans to hire a new editor to replace Malooley or restructure editorial management of the Reader.
Malooley said in a statement: “Today I beam with pride thinking back on the high-caliber journalism the Reader has published throughout my tenure at the paper: the impactful investigations, the immersive long-form features, the engaging themed issues, the barbed criticism of everything from politics to the arts. The paper's editorial excellence is a testament to its dedicated and diligent staff of editors and writers and photographers and designers, who I've had the privilege of leading over the past few years.
"Despite very difficult circumstances—industry-wide decline, significantly diminished editorial resources, ownership upheaval, upper-management neglect—we persevered and continued to do work that won awards, yes, but more importantly told Chicago stories of consequence, told them with precision and care, and gave them the space they deserved. When I was named editor-in-chief, I recall telling you that working for the Reader—in any capacity, let alone as its editor—was a dream job. After logging many long hours and late nights, I still feel that way. My only regret is that the dream has ended too soon,” he said.
A graduate of DePaul University and former intern at NewCity Chicago, Malooley spent eight years at Time Out Chicago, rising from editorial assistant to senior editor. He joined the Reader as managing editor in 2014 and was promoted to editor in July 2015.
Colleagues praised Malooley Friday for keeping the Reader viable during financial hardship and ownership upheaval.
“Jake gave his heart, soul, and many, many late nights to the @Chicago_Reader, working diligently to both maintain its integrity and build on its legacy, despite dwindling resources,” tweeted his wife, Laura Pearson. “He led a talented staff with passion & equanimity, rather than ego, and I couldn’t be more proud.”
Kim Bellware called Malooley “a talented journalist and a good guy who cares about people — and the paper. He deserves better than this treatment.”