Michael Crystal resigned Tuesday as publisher of the Chicago Reader. It was a job he’d held through four-plus complicated years. During that time the print edition was redesigned twice, the company was sold by its original owners to Creative Loafing Inc. of Tampa, and the staff was reduced by roughly half. The process of reinvention Crystal oversaw continues: this week the paper launches a pullout music section and some more design updates.
The interim publisher is Kirk MacDonald, who, in addition to being COO of Creative Loafing, runs a marketing firm in Denver. Earlier, MacDonald was CEO of the Denver Newspaper Agency, publisher of the Rocky Mountain News and Denver Post. He expects to spend three days a week in Chicago. The new associate publisher, and Crystal’s heir apparent, is Steve Timble, the founding publisher of Time Out Chicago, launched in 2005. Timble left TOC abruptly in 2006 after a falling out with his bosses and joined the national ad sales force of the New York Times.
In a brief conversation in his office after his announcement at an afternoon staff meeting, Crystal described himself as a general manager type of publisher at a time when the Reader needs top-down expertise in developing ad sales. Crystal, who never gave up his home in Seattle and will be moving back there, was an unruffled sort of executive whose manner recalled the good old days at the Reader, when there was nothing much to get ruffled about. Those of us who remember those days remember them fondly.