About four years ago, the Gage Gallery at Roosevelt University mounted an exhibition of photographs from the Reader’s black-and-white era, which ended in 2004. The gallery is small, maybe three rooms, and on opening night, it was packed with old Reader people, many of whom had flown back to Chicago from wherever they’d moved to in order to be there. Afterward, there was a party at the Hideout that spilled out onto the lawn. Someone ordered a lot of pizza, and old Reader folks stood around talking and laughing and hugging and getting drunk together.
At the time, I was a relative new-timer—I’d only been on staff for two years and never worked in the office at 11 E. Illinois, the heart of Reader-dom. Most of the people in the crowd were bylines to me, but bylines I’d been reading for years and years, some all the way back to the 90s and college, when I thought I would never be smart or cool enough to write for the Reader, and I was too shy to approach any of them. So I stood and watched. It was like a family reunion, except of a family where everyone liked one another.
The Reader has never been about being cool or about one person’s particular vision. It’s not even about great writing and reporting, though it’s had plenty of both. The Reader was founded by a group of college friends, and in its earliest days, its office was the apartment in Hyde Park they all shared. And that’s lasted. It’s friendship that draws us together, along with our love for this paper (even though at times we’ve wondered if that makes us insane). That’s why when you leave the Reader, you never really leave. Or maybe it never really leaves you. —Culture Editor Aimee Levitt, whose last day with the Reader is August 27