On the Cover: Photo by Leslie Frempong. For more of Leslie's work, go to lesliefrempong.com.

There’s never been a more important moment for alternative newsweeklies in America. Nor have they ever been so difficult to pull together. There’s no funding, little support. The very notion of unfake news has been degraded in recent years—it’s downright reviled by the White House. Daily newspapers are shrinking as they struggle to keep themselves afloat. How can we possibly think about recommitting to alternative journalism?

Citizens across the nation are facing this question, although they hardly know it. The loss of the great Village Voice and the Missoula Indy in recent weeks barely cut through the haze of the president’s latest tweet storm about—whatever. Few armchair pundits offered more than a snarky “Coulda seen that coming” on Twitter or Facebook. Legacy media—many perpetrators of which emerged from the trenches of alternative newsweeklies—offered deeper analysis. Welp, it’s over, seemed to be the general sentiment of the independent reporter set. (You may know them as freelancers.)

So how, in this moment, can we possibly consider voicing a collective nope from the Reader offices? Because Chicago.

This is the home of the jibarito. What’s a jibarito, you may ask? It’s a Puerto Rican sandwich that replaces bread with fried plantains. That’s right, one of our local signature sandwiches bypasses the only thing that is consistent across sandwiches in general and improves upon it.

It’s the city that works. Who among you has not secretly snickered while friends in New York complain of interminable subway delays and rerouted transport lines while you hop the Green Line to work or greet your morning bus driver as you swipe your Ventra card?

We dye our river green once a year, because we like it that way, and if that same river isn’t flowing in the right direction, we’ll just reverse it. No biggie! (OK, very biggie, but we’ll front like it was nothing, also because Chicago.) We survived a fire. Consider our public parks, our fashion sense, our public art, the collective cultural contributions of individual neighborhoods from the south, north, and west sides alone! We’re even starting to hold police officers accountable for murdering young black men.

What this city can accomplish once it sets its mind to a task astounds me every day.

So I’m back. Ostensibly lured here to work with the brilliant staff of the Reader (even if secretly responding to the twin siren calls of the jibarito and functioning citywide public transportation), I’ve been overwhelmed and deeply gratified by the response. E-mails, phone calls, social media posts, press coverage, and people stopping me on the street because they recognize my picture: several times a day I am brought nearly to tears by a city proud of its alternative newsweekly and thrilled for its future.

What we’ll show you of that future in the pages that follow is a look at the extremely diverse and thriving world of punk music in the city. (Sidenote: Sicangu Lakota rapper Frank Waln’s new video “Wokiksuye” was conceived of and shot by youth on that rez at the Outlast Film Camp on the Pine Ridge Reservation, the plot of land next to the Rosebud Reservation, where Waln lived, and where I was born while my parents were working on the rez.) We’ll also peek at the fight for fair labor practices in the elite-seeming world of opera, and take a closer look at some of the city’s transportation options that aren’t (yet) working as well as hoped. We’ll preview the Chicago International Film Festival’s unique offerings—don’t miss the complicated biopic/doc Becoming Astrid, about Astrid Lindgren, the creator of my favorite comics character, Pippi Longstocking, and the Brazilian drama about gay male sex workers, Hard Paint.

And none of that can even give you a sense of what’s to come in the future. There’s never been a more important moment for alternative newsweeklies in America. And there’s never been a city more capable of letting them thrive. —Anne Elizabeth Moore