Bianca Betancourt, founder and editor-in-chief of CIRCUS Magazine, sits in the magazine’s 18th Street storefront. A neon CIRCUS logo casts her curls in electric blue light while Cherokee, her eight-year-old German Shepherd, greets passersby with howls.
I feel that one of the great miracles in recent journalism, if I may, is that that swagger and freedom that the Reader represented when it was flush with cash has somehow survived to one degree or another through all these difficult financial times. It’s easy to be on top of the world, cocky and cool, when you’re rolling in the dough, but when you’re struggling…if you still maintain that sense of mission, it is really impressive.
On Friday, May 12, the unionized editorial staff of the Chicago Reader unanimously voted to authorize a strike. Their decision was, in some ways, an act of desperation. Twenty-eight months after forming a union, they had not yet reached a contract with the owner, Wrapports, LLC. Last year, in response to a contract proposal calling for better salaries and a retirement plan, the company countered with “no salary increase and a severance package to consist of one day’s pay for every year worked,” according to a blog post by Ben Joravsky, a veteran political writer at the Reader.
Last week the New York Times came to Chicago to host a two-hour conversation about the city’s gun violence crisis. The event, “Chicago at a Crossroads,” was announced as an attempt to “work to turn the tide of violence” by “exploring realistic, promising strategies” and starting “provocative discussions.” It was produced in collaboration with the University of Chicago Crime Lab, which works with the Chicago Police Department to study patterns in the city’s violence though data analysis, and sponsored by, among other entities, Chase Bank. “Too many people are dying in Chicago. Let’s change that,” John Eligon, one of the Times reporters who hosted the conversation, wrote on Twitter in advance of the event.