Mara Shalhoup, editor of the Creative Loafing alternative weekly in Atlanta, will be the next editor of the Chicago Reader. Publisher Alison Draper announced her choice Monday morning, and Shalhoup will begin work at this paper on March 7.
It’s an interesting appointment. Shalhoup’s biggest weakness as a candidate turned out to be an important strength. The sale of the Reader to the Creative Loafing chain in 2007 opened a dark period in the paper’s 40-year history. It was a period marked by slashed budgets, massive layoffs, an ungainly redesign to fit a template dictated from Atlanta, and capricious leadership. Fourteen months later the company declared bankruptcy, and 11 months after that it was taken over by Atalaya Capital Management, the primary creditor. A Creative Loafing product from Atlanta had two strikes on her already when Shalhoup told Draper a few weeks ago that she wanted the job and then came north to try to win over the Reader staff.
But in a series of one-on-one meetings, Shalhoup managed to do that. We told her Creative Loafing stories and she told hers right back. We could at least close our eyes and pretend Atlanta didn’t exist. She had no such luck. She was as much a survivor as any of us, and she’d had a harder war.