I've got a whole city to hold down

June 03, 2004

Rags to scrap

The long-rumored entrance of the Time Out franchise into the Chicago market finally has some meat to it, as yesterday the company named a publisher (one Steve Timble, formerly of Raygun's now-defunct electronic-music mag Sweater) and an editor (ex-Metromix staffer Chad Schlegel). The Sun-Times reports that the pair will oversee the hiring of a staff of 75, a third of them on the editorial side.

Time Out Chicago is expected to debut in early 2005. Although Reader honchos shrugged off the notion of competition between the two in a New York Times piece last December, don't kid yourself. This is a direct threat to the Reader. Once a big fish in an empty pond, the weekly is now thrashing about with New City, Metromix, RedEye, RedStreak - and soon Time Out. None of those publications comes close to matching the Reader's intellectual heft, but they all take a slice - if not a chunk - of its reading eyes and ad-buying suits.

All of this comes amid further shakeups at the Reader. Chicagomuzikblog regulars know the music section has been in a massive state of flux, with the top Section Three column bouncing from Peter Margasak to Bob Mehr and the editor's pen being passed like the proverbial hot potato from Kiki Yablon to Keith Harris to Jim Shapiro and now Philip Montoro (whew). The winds of change have blown atop the masthead, too, as Michael Crystal replaced longtime publisher Jane Levine in April.

Look for Crystal, who comes to the Reader from the Seattle Weekly, to institute major cosmetic changes. A recent Crain's article drops broad hints that those changes may include a switch to color graphics and an unfolded tabloid format. Doesn't sound like a publication that's feeling too safe and comfy with the status quo, does it?