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The Reader's Ben Joravsky Details Grim Salaries In Big Push To Save The Alt-Weekly

By Rachel Cromidas in News on Sep 28, 2016 6:00PM

A recent edition of the Chicago Reader, via Instagram

We love the Chicago Reader, and you should too.

For decades the alt-weekly has consistently published some of the most in-depth, thoughtful and humane stories about the biggest problems facing the city and the creative minds trying to solve them. The investigations into police torture practices that ultimately helped put disgraced police commander Jon Burge behind bars? You have Jon Conroy, a former Reader staff reporter, to thank. More recently, the Reader's legacy of speaking up against injustice includes an in-depth feature on abuse at Profiles Theatre. The weekly paper, which was acquired by Wrapports, the company that owns the Sun-Times, in 2012, has earned its reputation with loyal readers of speaking truth to power many times over.

But the paper is struggling, thanks to financial problems that have hit newspapers across the industry, and its staff is in the midst of a big push to encourage the higher-ups at Wrapports to give it more resources and support. The "Save the Reader" campaign has garnered 5,000 signatures and planned a rally for next Thursday where employees say they will "step up and really tell Wrapports how we feel about their shoddy treatment of the Reader." Though the paper does not appear to be in immediate danger of folding, staffers, organized by their union, say the paper will slowly continue to decline without additional investment from Wrapports.

In the latest effort to ask the public for support, award-winning journalist and Reader columnist Ben Joravsky has written a Medium essay detailing the paper's struggles. Joravsky, a celebrated political writer who has been with the paper for decades, describes low salaries across the board and a pay disparity between male and female staffers:

Most of the staff hasn’t gotten a raise in nearly a decade. Many of our editorial employees work more than 40 hours per week for less than $40,000. Most staffers are male, but the lowest-paid workers are predominantly female.

The biggest salary goes to some old goat who makes $55,000 to write about politics. Obviously, no one got in this racket to make it rich.

But we do need stability. We’re getting just the opposite. There’s been a steady stream of cuts since Wrapports took control. When they bought the paper in 2012, we had 47 full- and part-time employees. We now have 31.

Joravsky also shares a detailed timeline of awards won, investigative reporting published, and staff cuts made since Wrapports acquired the Reader, starting with the acquisition and ending with the recent departure of longtime, celebrated Reader staffer Steve Bogira last week. If it sounds like we're gushing, it's because we are. The Reader's veteran writers are incredible, and Chicago is lucky they're paying attention.

If you're not convinced, read the full Medium piece. It ends with a list of ways you can help, which hopefully Joravsky won't mind us quoting in full:

Here’s how to help “Save the Chicago Reader” *Find Save the Chicago Reader on Facebook, where you can sign our petition. *Or access the petition directly. *Call Bruce Sagan, Wrapports board member who oversees the Reader, at 312-321-3127. Email him at *RSVP and attend our rally at noon October 6, rain or shine, on the street outside the Reader’s offices at 350 N. Orleans. *Find the Reader and read it! *Last but not least, why not advertise in the paper? Call 312-222-6920.