Senior writer Mick Dumke will leave the Reader at the end of this month to join the investigative team of the Sun-Times. It's not the first time Dumke's left the Reader for less familiar pastures (there are no green pastures in journalism any longer), and if he changes his mind the way he did the last time—fine with me. He's an exceptional reporter.
Putting the best face he could on this unfortunate news, editor Jake Malooley in his announcement to the staff identified a "silver lining," which was that Dumke "won't be far away. Actually, he'll be moving right down the hall." Dumke tells me, "I'm pained to be leaving the Reader, even if it's only for an office down the hall. I love the Reader and especially our colleagues there, who put out one creative and fascinating issue after another. I'm really proud to have been part of that team. My consolation is that I know it will keep kicking ass."
Proximity won't compensate in any way for the loss of Dumke as one of the ass-kickers. That's a rival paper down the hall. What's more, Dumke will no longer be one of the negotiators trying to hammer out this paper's first Newspaper Guild contract with those suits from Sun-Times Media.
Dumke says that a couple of weeks ago, Jim Kirk, editor in chief of the Sun-Times, told him he wanted to expand his paper's Watchdogs unit by hiring him. "I considered it carefully," says Dumke, "consulted a close friend at each paper, and ultimately decided it was an exciting opportunity that I didn't want to pass up." The Sun-Times offered more investigative journalism, a "bigger platform," and the chance to "work with and learn from Dan [Mihalopoulos], Tim [Novak], and Chris [Fusco]."
The last time Dumke quit the Reader was July 2010, when Kirk was managing editor of the (now defunct) Chicago News Cooperative and Mihalopoulos, whom he'd known for years, covered City Hall for it. "I really want to work with these guys," Dumke told me then. Eight months later he came back from CNC, saying he'd missed the Reader's "extra real estate and space flexibility."
Today that extra real estate exists only in the ether of the Internet, but Dumke says recent format changes further shrinking the print Reader's news hole weren't an important factor in his decision. "Over the last several years I've written several long-form pieces that only ran online," he says. "In fact, people have already been joking with me about my ability to write a story that runs at less than 3,000 words, which will clearly be necessary at my new position."