The Chicago Sun-Times is selling the Chicago Reader, an alternative weekly that covers the arts, culture and politics.
The Reader is being sold to a group led by Dorothy Leavell, publisher of the The Chicago Crusader and Gary Crusader newspapers. The Sun-Times will keep a 15 percent stake in the Reader, which it bought in 2012. The sale price wasn’t disclosed.
“The Reader is a beloved Chicago institution with an important history of investigative journalism and cultural reporting. Our goal as new ownership is to preserve and strengthen this brand and to make the paper accessible to all Chicago communities,” Leavell said of the sale.
The award-winning Reader, with its tradition of long-form and investigative journalism, has been an important part of Chicago since 1971. The free weekly has circulation of about 85,000.
“We love the Reader and have worked hard to be sure it has a foundation for the future. All of us at the Sun-Times are thrilled that the Reader’s future is in such good hands,” Sun-Times CEO Edwin Eisendrath said.
Leavell has been publisher of the Chicago and Gary Crusader newspapers for 50 years. The papers are part of the Crusader Newspaper Group and cover African-American communities throughout the Chicago area. Leavell is also the president of the National Newspaper Publishers Association, a black press trade association with 200 member newspapers.
Dave Roeder, organizer at the Chicago News Guild, welcomed the news. “The Reader covers arts, culture, politics and civic issues like no one else. We look forward to helping the new owners broaden the audience for its excellent work. We also thank Edwin Eisendrath and his investors, including organized labor, for having preserved the Reader’s independent voice.”
The sale is expected to be completed within 30 days.
Leavell said that she’d like to see the Reader’s long-form, investigative reporting expanded.
“We are going to broaden that scope,” she said. “We want to be in every community to bring you the news that you enjoy already. We’re going to be expanding. We will increase our cultural information. You want to know what’s happening in Chicago? You gotta read the Reader.”
She wouldn’t name other investors but did disclose that negotiations had been in the works for several months.
The Reader staff, which shares office space with the Sun-Times in the West Loop, will also be moving once the deal is finalized, Leavell said.
Leavell said the Reader staff was looking forward to no longer being “under the shadow of the Sun-Times.”
The alt-weekly has been without a permanent executive editor since February. Mark Konkol — a Pulitzer Prize winner and former Sun-Times reporter — was hired to run the Reader, but he was fired in a matter of weeks after the Reader ran a front-page cartoon that featured a caricature of gubernatorial candidate J.B. Pritzker sitting on a lawn jockey.