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Chicago Reader Stalemate Ends As Co-Owner Leonard Goodman Steps Down

Following months of backlash related to a vaccine column he wrote, co-owner Leonard Goodman agreed to step aside, allowing the Chicago Reader to become a nonprofit.

Staffers and supporters from the across the city gather in front of the Readers co-owner Len Goodman's home in Lakeview.
Melody Mercado, Block Club Chicago
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CHICAGO — Chicago Reader co-owner Leonard C. Goodman has stepped down following protests and backlash from staff members, clearing the way for the alternative newspaper to transition to nonprofit status, a board member confirmed.

The Reader’s future had been in jeopardy because an effort to convert the paper into a nonprofit was stalled by Goodman and the alt weekly’s board over a controversial column Goodman wrote in November. Goodman will transfer the Reader’s assets to a nonprofit, said Dorothy Leavell, a member of the Reader’s for-profit board.

“He has decided after exhaustive times of attacks and misinformation that he would just give them the opportunity to continue with their not-for-profit,” Leavell said Tuesday.

Leavell, longtime publisher of the Chicago Crusader, and board members Sladjana Vuckovic and Carol Bell are also resigning from their Reader board positions, Leavell said. All three were supporters of Goodman.

Goodman could not immediately be reached by Block Club but told the Tribune he planned to leave his post.

“We cannot continue the fight without destroying the Reader,” Goodman said in a statement to the Tribune.

Tracy Baim, Reader co-publisher and president, said she is looking forward to moving on to the next phase of the Reader. She also said she’s “grateful” to Goodman for “his support over the last three-and-a-half years.”

Philip Montoro, who heads the Reader Editorial Union, said Goodman’s “generous support” allowed the Reader to survive the pandemic, but he’s grateful the stalemate is over.

“We’ve all been carrying around such a weight and a lot of frustration and anxiety,” Montoro said. “Last Friday was the last [day] the for-profit could guarantee to underwrite. We were going to have to go begging for money to keep getting paid.”

The impasse to transition the Reader to a nonprofit started after Goodman published column about his concerns vaccinating his then-6-year-old against COVID-19.

The column triggered Baim to hire an independent fact-checker to review the piece. The fact-checker found 15 inaccurate or misleading statements, according to Poynter, but Goodman disputed the column had factual errors. The column remains in its original form on the Reader’s website.

Goodman and the for-profit board then demanded several changes to Reader’s sale agreement, including Baim’s resignation, a review of the independent fact-checker, additional appointees to the nonprofit’s board and adoption of a mission statement relating to free speech before the transition could move forward.

Staff had been sounding the alarm on social media and protesting last week in front of Goodman’s home. They were concerned the publication could run out of money soon if the sale did not go through. The editorial union garnered support from numerous local unions, several Chicago alderpeople, and over 400 Chicago journalists who signed its online petition.

“I’m still feeling very emotional,” Montoro said. “Because honestly this means that we have a future again.”

Goodman and developer Elzie Higginbottom bought the Chicago Reader from the Sun-Times in 2018. They were 50-50 owners and have invested close to $2 million into the publication.

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