The Chicago Reader was an alternative newspaper that sprang up in Chicago in the 1970s and recently celebrated its 50th anniversary. I worked on some of their corporate issues from time to time and the firm regularly reviewed its content for possible libel exposures. These First Amendment issues were frequent year in and year out and were dealt with by a new litigator with the firm, David Andich. Led by Bob Roth, the Reader’s five owners (Robert A. Roth, Robert E. McCamant, Thomas J. Rehwaldt, and Thomas K. Yoder) had started it on a shoestring shortly after graduating from college. T
hey were uniformly fun to work with and some became longer term friends long after I ceased to represent their enterprise.
The paper was always given away for free and was completely dependent on advertising. The Reader was only eight pages long in its early days and in 1975 the paper only earned $300,000. However, by 2000, its revenue was on the order of $20 million, and it had gotten fat enough with advertising to resemble one of the mainstream Sunday papers. The paper was more than trendy in this period. It became a must read for anyone wanting to keep up with Chicago’s ever-changing restaurant, cultural and entertainment scene, and it did a fair if offhand job in keeping its eye on local politics and the media. Throughout, it maintained a reputation for publishing long, interesting articles on an astounding array of unusual topics.