Robservations on the media beat:
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.
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.” Continue reading