In a pre-digital age, the Chicago Reader was the indispensable guide to all things Chicago. But in a world where almost any information is just a Google search away, it’s a tough time to be an alternative and free weekly newspaper.
Tasked with the job of maintaining the Reader’s relevance in an ever-changing media landscape is Enrique Limón. He is the Reader’s new editor-in-chief and the first Latino to hold that position in the publication’s more than 50-year history.
Limón says he thought he was done with alt-weeklies.
“I left alt weeklies in 2020 after nearly 15 years and I thought, well that’s it,” says Limón.
He was familiar with the Reader from his time in Chicago while doing a fellowship at Northwestern University’s Medill journalism school.
“The Reader for me was the one that got away,” says Limón. “Ingrained into that fellowship was to eventually pitch something to the Reader in the hopes of it being published by the end of the fellowship. So I did a stack of potential ‘best of Chicago’ blurbs for the 2015 issue or something like that. They were just a little bit too out there for the time.”
Now he’s back with a clear vision of what the Reader means to Chicago and what its role should be.
“I think the mission for any alt weekly should be to embed itself within the community. And I think that the Reader has done it so majestically, and through trials, tribulations, vicissitudes and all that good stuff, the Reader still stands,” he says.
He says the Reader has long been a “reference point” for him in his career, and notes the impact of the Reader’s “people issue” – in which Chicagoans from all walks of life were profiled – was a “format buster.”
The Reader has just revived the concept for its latest issue.
“That’s the issue that we just put to bed yesterday. I think it's going to be a great impact in the community. It’s the first time we’ve done this since 2016 and it’s the first time that the people issue profiles or has a posthumous entry, which was on me, and that was for Mama Gloria Allen,” says Limón. “I still can’t believe that I’m a part of it now that I get to lead the charge.”