A new chapter

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Hi Reader,

There’s plenty of debate as to what was truly the first free, alternative weekly newspaper. But here’s how Richard Karpel, who headed up the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies, put it:

“The most significant historical event in the creation of the modern alt-weekly occurred in Chicago in 1971, when the Chicago Reader pioneered the practice of free circulation.”

I think we can all agree on that.

But the era that the Reader defined — of free alt-weeklies filled to the brim with creativity and passion, supported entirely by local advertising — is coming to an end. Whether it’s the fault of Craigslist, or the internet, or corporate buyouts, for years now alt-weeklies across the country have been closing down.

Now, with your help, we have a chance to create something new. The Reader is embarking on a new chapter, with a new nonprofit model that puts readers at the heart of everything.

That starts with our Reader membership program.

We’re in uncharted waters now, and this is still an unproven strategy. To be honest, there are a lot of unanswered questions about what the new, nonprofit Reader will look like. But there is one thing we’re absolutely committed to:

The Reader will remain free for everyone.

How do we pull that off? Advertising from local businesses will still play a big part. So will the support of partners like the MacArthur Foundation and many others. But the key will be readers who are willing and able to chip in a little bit of their own money to keep the Reader free and accessible for all Chicagoans, all across the city.

Will you help keep the Reader free for everyone by becoming a member today?

Our revamped membership program lets you pay what you like, starting at $5 a month.

And for a limited time, we’re offering annual memberships at a 20% discount.

All members will receive an exclusive Reader lapel pin, early access to the new issues, discounted entry to Reader-sponsored events, as well as extras and surprises (because the Reader is never predictable).

Most importantly, when you become a member, you’ll know that you are part of creating a new model for how alternative newspapers can survive in cities across the country.

It all starts here in Chicago, just like it did in 1971.

Become a member today — and help usher in the next great era of alternative, community journalism.

Thank you so much,

Tracy Baim


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