“Save the Reader” rally highlights Reader staff, supporters significance


Kiersten Riedford

The Chicago Reader Union is made up of the 35 members of Reader staff. If the publication does not transition into nonprofit status, they could all lose their jobs.

Negotiations between Len Goodman, Chicago Reader co-owner and DePaul adjunct professor, and the Chicago Reader Union have stalled.

After the Chicago Reader Union’s rally on Thursday, Goodman agreed to meet with co-owner Elzie Higginbottom and his lawyer. However, Goodman told his lawyer to cancel the meeting after learning Bob Reiter, president of the Chicago Federation of Labor would be present.

The union is organizing a “Work from (Len’s) Home” on Thursday April 28 where union members will work outside Goodman’s home in Lakeview — the same location the previous rally was held at Wellington Avenue and Lake Shore Drive.

“We already knew that we might have to potentially escalate and [we are] figuring out how we can keep the momentum that we have,” said Yazmin Zacaria Mikhaiel, Reader union member and audience engagement manager. “You can expect reader staffers to show up and do their jobs in front of Len’s home.”

The rally will be a visual representation of what the Reader does day-to-day.

“To keep the momentum going and make sure that Len knows that he’s impacting us on the day-to-day,” Mikhaiel said. “Showing up to his home so he can witness that is the most visual representation of us doing our jobs.”

There are 17 members of the Chicago Reader Union, all members of the Reader’s editorial staff. At the rally on Thursday, union chair Philip Montoro told The DePaulia that Goodman had not formally communicated with him.

Kelly Garcia, a Reader staff writer, leader of the Racial Justice Reporting Hub and DePaul alum, spoke to the crowd about how her work continues to be stalled by Goodman’s actions.

“The racial justice reporting hub can’t stand on the shoulders of one person,” she said during her speech. “I was promised an editor and more writers. But we’ve not been able to do that because we’re dealing with a man-made crisis, a Len Goodman-made crisis.”

The union also created two open letters in support of the Chicago Reader Union, one for professional journalists and the second for artists and artist organizations. Over 50 organizations have signed the artist organization letter and nearly 400 journalists have signed as well.

“But not only did we have good support from our brothers and sisters in the unions, but we had community support, support from our collaborators from the other journalistic institutions,” Montoro said at the rally. “We’re building an ecosystem, something sustainable because it’s real hard to go it alone these days.”

Co-signers ranged from freelancers to journalists from the Chicago Tribune and past Reader employees.

“I think that critical mass of folks speaks to the impact that the Reader has had, and what would be lost in the city for a newspaper with this legacy and grit to just cease to exist,” Mikhaiel said.

There has not been an update about another negotiation meeting.

25th Ward Ald. Byron Sigcho-Lopez told The DePaulia about the importance of standing behind the Reader union.

“It’s critical for us as a community as a city to make sure that we get behind the unionized staff,” Sigcho-Lopez said. “Fifty-year-year legacy of independence on the ground, grassroots journalism cannot be jeopardized just because Mr. Goodman has a difference of opinion.”

On April 13, Goodman published a column about being wary of fact checkers and claimed that the Reader staff tried to censor him after he expressed concerns for vaccinating his children for Covid-19.

“There’s approximately 36 reporters — independent reporters — who should not see their great work jeopardized just because there is a millionaire who has a different agenda,” Sigcho-Lopez said.

Sigcho-Lopez spoke at the rally about how the Reader has impacted Chicago and why the city needs independent journalism.

“As an elected official who looks and sees the importance of independent journalism, that is really coming to a community that is really investing in journalists, for more communities that expose these issues who write in detail in that is something that is really rare, and you’ll be really sad to see that going away or being jeopardized,” Sigcho-Lopez said.

The Reader staff continues to publish amidst the dispute. They are also celebrating their 50 year anniversary.

“We are still working,” Mikhaiel said. “I think that’s something that’s been maybe unclear during this time of mobilization for us, [is] that the paper is still going out. We’re still going to print. We still have day-to-day operations of staffers as well as putting the pressure on to save our newspaper.”

As one of the last free alternative biweekly newspapers in Chicago, the Reader is able to reach the community, even those who do not have access to the news or internet.

“The amount of resources that exist within the pages is so crucial to the fabric of the city and supporting Chicagoans who potentially don’t even have access to the internet, don’t have access to different kinds of services — having a hub like the Reader in print that is still accessible is necessary to keep our city going and for folks to stay informed about what’s happening in their city,” Mikhaiel said.

The Reader has limited time until they cannot sustain their for-profit status.

“The Reader is our home, and if you care about the people that are in your home, you take care of them,” Mikhaiel added.