None of this was easy. From choosing the shape and size of every font to determining the chronology of information in each event listing to figuring out how to capture more space for not one but two feature stories, the reimagining of the Chicago Reader has been a meticulous project.
It’s serious business, going in and asking for change (or, as our film critic J.R. Jones would say, “upheaval”) at a publication as venerable as this. On the one hand, there is the Reader‘s proud 40-year history and extraordinary journalistic legacy to uphold. On the other, there is the need to excite and provoke both new and existing readers, whose habits have drastically changed due to the Web—and who, I believe, will continue in the years to come to pick up a smart, evolving print publication.
Not a single alteration to these pages was made merely for change’s sake. Our two biggest “upheavals”—the dual glossy covers and, on the flip side, a new identity for the Reader‘s expanded music content—were highly deliberate. We intend for the glossies to lend more longevity to the paper, throughout and even beyond the week. And with the “B Side,” we aim to provide more exposure than ever for our always-incisive, ahead-of-the-curve coverage of Chicago’s music scene.
Something else you’ll probably notice: Our intentional foray into participatory journalism. Several of the Reader‘s new features strike a tone that’s more cocktail party than lecture hall. You Are Here, Culture Vultures, In Rotation and Artist on Artist capture the conversation of musicians, authors, visual artists, and other in-the-know/off-the-beaten-path Chicagoans. We feel that this kind of interaction follows in the playful spirit of our James Beard Foundation Award-nominated Key Ingredient—which is now paired in our Food & Drink section with a similarly styled craft cocktail challenge.
We’ve improved the manner in which we offer suggestions on how to best experience the city. Our new Agenda pages draw from multiple topics and genres to bring together a weeklong calendar of the most fascinating goings-on across the city. We’ve abandoned Critics’ Choices in favor of a single designation—the almighty Reader Recommends insignia (so noted by the reverse R)—to help you determine which among our already-curated listings are the very best of the best. We’ve reorganized the way we present theater listings (grouping them by new and opening shows) and film listings (breaking them down by new releases, continuing showings, and repertory screenings) to help you better navigate those cultural offerings.
We also will be committing to a style of sports coverage all our own with the weekly “Mudville” feature, which will run the gamut from the joy and pain of pro sports fandom to the revelry of recreation sports—everything from baseball to cycling to roller derby.
We’ve abandoned column names—”Hot Type,” “The Business,” and “The Works”—in lieu of placing the writers’ names—Michael Miner, Deanna Isaacs, and Ben Joravsky—front and center. We’re pretty sure you referenced those columns by the writers’ names, anyway. Also note that Savage Love, which keeps its name, has moved further back in the paper in classifieds, and that music critic Miles Raymer’s column will return next week.
To create a mega Arts & Culture section, we’ve amassed our coverage of theater, performing arts, dance, comedy, visual arts, literature, and film. It makes sense to us, and hopefully to you, to have all of this in one place.
And we’re spotlighting the cool artisans and indie crafters among us in our weekly Local Wares feature, while drawing deserved attention to the unique and creative homes of Chicagoans on a page we’re calling “Space.” Turn that page and you’ve arrived at our classifieds section, which has moved from the back to the center of the publication.
Over on the B Side, you’ll still find the bedrock of the music section—our pithy and informative concert previews—but they’re now combined with our regular concert listings in an easier-to-use, day-by-day format under the collective moniker Soundboard. Gossip Wolf is being distilled down to what it does best—pure music-scene gossip—with a new feature, Three Beats, offering a roundup of news, reviews, and miscellany on three specific genres—punk, metal, and jazz one week, say, and classical, pop, and electronic the next. And Photo Pit has been retired to make way for a nightlife photo gallery in which we turn the camera away from the stage and into the crowd, the green room, the afterparty . . .
With all this talk of a print reinvention, you might think we’ve overlooked the Web. Nope. We’re launching a new blog to coincide with our shiny new print edition. After much deliberation, we settled on a name we’re sure you’ll either love or hate: the Bleader. (Get it?) You’ll find other significant changes to our Web site, chicagoreader.com, too—with many more on the way.
There’s not enough room on this page to properly thank all of the people who contributed to the making of this redesign (suffice it to say that everyone who works at the Reader played a critical role), but it would be remiss not to acknowledge the tireless work ethic and boundless creative energy of art director Paul Higgins, as well as the willingness of design consultant Ron Reason to push our boundaries and his own. We are also grateful to the dozens of people in the community who shared their valuable time and honest feedback. You know who you are.
Did we leave any stone unturned? We think not. But we could be wrong. Direct your constructive criticism—or your fawning praise—in the comment field below.
How’s that for upheaval?