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Managing editor Jake Malooley, who's been running the Reader for the past five months, on Thursday was formally named the paper's new editor. He follows Mara Shalhoup, who left in February to take over the LA Weekly.
Malooley's appointment—announced to the staff by Jim Kirk, editor in chief of Sun-Times Media—came as no surprise. His biggest drawback when the position opened and he became acting editor was that at the time he'd been with the Reader less than a year. He earlier worked for Time Out Chicago.
Full-time editorial staffers (I work part-time from home) who have talked to me about Malooley wished he didn't have to do the work of two people. So I asked him Thursday if a new managing editor will soon be named. Apparently not.
"While I agree with you to a certain extent [about the need for a new ME], I think we have other needs," Malooley said, "which include ramping up the cultural coverage and the news coverage on a day-to-day basis. So in lieu of filling my position, I think it makes more sense to see about creating positions that sort of need to be filled with regard to culture and overseeing news."
Which doesn't mean he'll actually be hiring two new people anytime soon. "We're talking hypotheticals," Malooley said. Wrapports LLC, which controls the Sun-Times and Reader and has both papers on lean rations, would have to give the Reader a budget with money for their salaries. All that idea is at the moment, he said, "part of the conversation."
He was more specific about other changes. He and creative director Paul Higgins told the staff Thursday that the print Reader will be overhauled at the end of this month. The design will be new, the content—Malooley said—will be more varied, and "we're taking a more curatorial approach to listings." He said the Reader's decided that "being completist these days is a fool's errand," it being impossible to compete with the "entirety of the Internet," where "so many venues and artists are willing and able" to promote themselves. Instead, the Reader will focus on what it's covering.
The B Side, the Reader's music-oriented second front page, will disappear.
"One other thing I want to emphasize," Malooley said. "The Reader has a legacy of long-form journalism and investigative journalism, and that's not going away at all." It is, however, migrating to the digital Reader. As the print news hole shrinks and the digital readership continues to expand, the Web becomes the logical home for 5,000- or 10,000-word reports. "The great thing about online," said Malooley, "is that we can trick out these stories with multimedia, add as many great photos as we want, add video."
This kind of enterprise journalism isn't cheap. But when it runs online Malooley won't have to worry about space in addition to money.