Clockwise from top left: Julie Greenberg and Jeff Jenkins, Midnight Circus, 1997; Jim’s Original Hot Dog Stand, Maxwell Street, 1993; Uptown Street Festival, 1988; North Avenue Beach chess players, date unknown; Gerri Oliver at the Palm Tavern, 2001 Credit: Photos Jim Newberry / Photo illustration Amber Huff

I started at the Reader as an editorial assistant one month before my 23rd birthday, just a year out of college and not yet having dipped my toes in the professional world of journalism outside of the student newspaper. There was a lot I still hadn’t experienced—this was before I could binge-watch TV without commercials for goodness sake! Now at 31, I realize that I’ve spent my most formative years with the Reader, all of my adult life really. Both in my own work and admiration of the work of my colleagues, I was able to discover the comedy venues I loved the most, the music I should be listening to, the issues in the city that I needed to pay attention to. In the pages of the paper I slowly came out of my shell and found my voice, and have only gotten more confident in that voice by the second. 

As the Reader turns 50, all of us here at the paper have reflected on not just the paper’s legacy, but our own journeys within the larger story. When you read the upcoming 50th anniversary issues (there are two!) featuring everything from an in-depth history of the Reader, success stories from the matches in the classifieds, highlights from the last five decades of music coverage, and more, consider each writer, photographer, subject, editor, even typesetter involved in putting together the paper since the beginning. Each of them have their own stories and successes thanks to the Reader

This is my final issue as a Reader staffer. It’s a bittersweet celebration of all the things I was able to be a part of and all the exciting things on the horizon that I’ll be witnessing from afar. But there’s always comfort in knowing I was a tiny part of its legacy, and it was a big part of mine. 

50 years of a Chicago weekly

The history of the Reader reflects the larger history of newspaper publishing in the United States. This timeline traces the paper’s changing fortunes over the course of a half-century.