Crain's Chicago Business and The Chicago Reader's Mike Miner reports that Alison True, The Reader's long-time editor who had been with the paper since 1984, was summarily dismissed Friday morning by the latest revolving-door full of executives put in place by Atalaya Capital Management, the current owners trying to salvage some of the $30 million it loaned Creative Loafing, the parent company that bought The Reader in 2007 and spun it into bankruptcy less than two years later.
As I said in a comment I posted on Mike Miner's story, The Reader is now at the mercy of a Florida CEO who did such a good job at her last job they let he go, and an "acting" publisher du jour from Texas whose last great accomplishment was cutting the frequency of the publication she managed from daily to weekly.
Without Alison True, I would never have become a writer on architecture, but not even that can tarnish Alison's reputation as an exemplary editor who cared about developing writers and nurturing the kind of offbeat outlooks that made for compelling stories.
My own story, I'm sure, was shared by many other aspiring writers. Back in 2002, I was looking out my Marina City window and getting increasingly angry about the often hideous condo towers rising all around me. I put my feelings into an article that my former boss, Wendy Lapidus-Saltz, helped me punch into shape, and I mailed it to The Reader. When I heard nothing after several weeks, I said to myself that it was par for the course for a first effort and I needed to start thinking about what I would do next. Then, I came home to find a message on my answering machine, "This is Kiki Yablon of The Reader. We liked your piece and we're thinking about putting it on the cover."
Kiki and Alison gingerly guided their novice contributor through the editing process and the piece, titled, Stop the Blandness! ran on The Reader's front page on January 16, 2003. It was a long piece. but it got a great response from Chicago's architectural community. And for me, it was an amazing thrill.
Dozen's of other articles followed. I got to meet and write about Chicago's amazingly talented architects - from Helmut Jahn, to Stanley Tigerman, Ralph Johnson, Carol Ross Barney, Jeanne Gang, John Ronan, and so many more, including a side trip to Seattle for Rem Koolhaas's new public library, and concluding with a different take on Daniel Burnham for the Burnham Plan Centennial last year.
It was a great trip. I may have tortured an entire succession of talented Reader editors with my contentious bad humour, but I could still depend on finding a receptive ear in Alison whenever I had an idea for a new piece. And I think I can say, objectively, that a lot of interesting stuff resulted.
Week after week, Alison created a product whose quality frequently put Chicago's two dailies to shame. My suspicion is that Alison's unforgivable crime was that her commitment to that quality made her an obstacle to those absentee landlords who seek a cheaper, more blandly marketable, more generically modular Reader whose content can be created largely on autopilot from the home office in Florida.
For management to dismiss Alison is a huge misfortune for The Reader and an outrage to its most dedicated readers. What would be a tragedy, however, would be for Chicago to lose her entirely. We can only hope that a major publication that still retains some capacity for judging talent will snap her up - and quickly.
Alison, I would follow you anywhere. You're my hero.