Chicago Reader celebrates 50th anniversary

September 28, 2021
Contact: Tracy Baim:, 773-387-2394

Chicago Reader celebrates 50th anniversary

The Chicago Reader, a fearless, innovative, and nationally respected media voice in Chicago since 1971, is celebrating its 50th anniversary with a variety of exhibitions, events, and projects.

The Chicago Reader’s first issue was October 1, 1971. It is believed to be the nation’s first free newsweekly. From its days as the city’s main “alternative” publication, to its current biweekly format with daily online postings, the Chicago Reader has stayed true to its roots, covering culture in all its forms, and uncovering corruption in government and other institutions.In 2020, the Chicago Reader received 501(c)(3) nonprofit status from the IRS for its Reader Institute for Community Journalism, and the full conversion to nonprofit is expected before the end of this year. 

The Reader has been marking its golden anniversary with online and print-related content, including deep archives dives. That will continue with two special anniversary issues, October 14 and October 28, with 60,000 copies featuring the origin story and other articles and content focused on the past 50 years of award-winning work.

The Oct. 1, 1971 cover of the first Chicago Reader

Reader 50th celebrations:

  • The Newberry Library is hosting an exhibition of archival materials from the Reader, including reporter’s notes by John Conroy for his 1990 “House of Screams” cover story on police brutality, original art created for the Reader by Lynda Barry, Slug Signorino, and other artists, plus other materials in the library’s collection. “The Chicago Reader at 50: A half-century of revolutionary storytelling” will open to the public on Wednesday, October 6 and be on display at the Newberry’s gallery until Friday, January 21, 2022. For hours and upcoming special events, visit
  • The Reader ran a button design contest with Busy Beaver Button Co. this summer. The winners were selected by public voting to be featured in a button collection representing the past five decades the Reader has been serving Chicago. This button pack will be on sale Oct 1. To purchase, visit
  • There will be a series of public and private “house” parties in October and November, to raise funds for the new nonprofit. One online event will be hosted October 20 at 6pm CST by Haymarket Books. Moderator Kim L. Hunt and panelists Ben Joravsky, Alderman Rossana Rodriguez Sanchez, and Stacy Davis Gates will discuss “What’s Next in Chicago Politics.” Visit for House Party details.
  • Starting October 1, there will be a 50 Days of Reader Giving prize giveaway. All members of the Reader’s Reader Revolution membership program will be automatically entered to win prizes throughout the entire 50-day giveaway. Theater tickets, a souvenir Reader newsbox, Ben Platt concert tickets, Chicago restaurant vouchers, and many more items will be given away. For rules on how to enter the prize giveaway, visit To become a member, visit
  • Don’t miss the October 14 and October 28 editions for a wide range of articles celebrating the 50 years of Chicago Reader. To advertise email
  • Shop for Reader merchandise, and to subscribe to have the print edition mailed to your door.
  • Later this year, look for a book commemorating the first 25 years of Chicago Reader covers.
  • In 2022, there are plans for in-person events, including an October (un)gala, a January panel discussion with John Conroy, special highlights of 50 years of Reader advertising, a Spirits of ’71 Cocktail Book, and more.

The Reader was founded by four college friends: Bob McCamant, Bob Roth, Tom Yoder, and Tom Rehwaldt. They sold the paper in 2007 to Creative Loafing, and it was sold several times since, including to the Chicago Sun-Times. In 2018, the Sun-Times sold the Reader to Elizie Higginbottom and Leonard C. Goodman, who took it independent once again, before approving its conversion to a nonprofit. The four founders returned to the Reader office for the first time in years for a 50th anniversary photo shoot, where they met current co-publishers Tracy Baim and Karen Hawkins. “We continue to be honored to helm this legendary Chicago newspaper,” Baim and Hawkins said. “And we are very happy to start the 50th anniversary celebrations October 1 with 50 days of Reader giving. This has not been an easy journey to nonprofit status during a pandemic, but we are grateful to our staff, freelancers, supporters, readers and advertisers for staying the course.”

For more details see @chicagoreader 
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